Author : Duncan Shields, Staff Writer

I hunt the Time Killers.

I am the person they call in when they have a chronovore infestation. These creatures are bright blue and frog-like with the giant faceted eyes of an insect. Millilocular lenses, each one seeing progressively further forward and back in time.

The smaller a beast is, the less it can see into time. The babies can see ten minutes in either direction. The big ones can see for days. I heard of one giant beast that saw a week and a half in either direction.

It’s like how a fly’s eyes are giant hemispheres, giving it a nearly 360 degree field of view for warning of incoming danger. These chronovores see a lenticular time-field to give them warning of imminent attacks.

These chronovores, being quantum animals, need to see the chunk of time that they are going to eat. If they can only see five minutes forward and five minutes back, then they can only fit that ten minutes of time into their gullets before moving on. If they eat more than they can see, they untether from the timeline and are never seen again. Greed keeps their numbers down.

It’s when a pack of them get together and start grazing that the problems really start.

The fields they emanate can take up entire city blocks. The area where they eat gets shuffled back in time and their bellies get full.

Most humans blame their dodgy memories on inattention or drugs or lack of sleep. One day looks pretty much like the next in most people’s numbing drudgery of an existence. The small chronovores pass without much damage. A few minutes here, an hour there. If people notice a discrepancy, they figure they just dozed off or zoned out for a second. It’s the big ‘C-vores’ that cause problems with history and create timefaults.

I’m from the Core. I have perfect recall. When a chunk of my time goes missing, I know it. My scanner says that there are ripples here. The beast must be close. I warm up the looptrap and place it near –

– Wednesday for lunch. It’s not much but I’m hoping that they don’t linger. Wait. Wait. What day is it? I check inside and compare streams. I lost a month. That can’t be! A month-eater would be the size of a shuttlecraft! I’ve heard no reports.

Wait. The television. It’s talking about a giant blue frog in the downtown core. The helicopters of this era are circling. Jesus. The chronovore’s field emanation must be the size –

– tranquil, almost summertime breeze. I’m looking forward to the barbeque and seeing Marie. Damn. It’s happened again. I wonder if it’s yanking the entire city backwards a month at a time. It’s going to continue on its path, leaving month-sized holes across the seaboard like a ravenous moth making its way through a closet of expensive clothes.

Maybe they can drive it into the ocean. In the depths, a month of time isn’t going to make too much of a difference one way or the –

-peanut butter. I can’t even be sure that the supermarket is open. The queue is taking a long time. How did I –

– given my orders. Apparently there’s a large chronovore in LA. I’m not looking forward to it. I don’t like the heat in that city.

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You're In Good Hands

Author : Martin Berka

The young man walks into the room. I know what he’s going to say. He looks at me, trying to form the words.

“Can you…understand me?” he asks, self-consciously.

“That is the least of what I can do,” I reply, choosing to use the voice and image of a five-year-old girl. It’s fun to surprise. “You’re a student?”

“Yeah…” I can imagine: he jumped at the chance to see me before it was too late. Now he’s finding it awkward. “They made you capable of viewing and understanding information online?”


“You may have kept up on the unfolding economic crisis.”

“Also yes.”

With greater confidence: “In that case, you might understand just how bad it is: a complete disaster. Even the strongest of corporations have discovered massive debts. Stock markets are collapsing, unemployment is rising a percentage point a day. Such chaos… it’s as if capitalism itself is collapsing.”


He struggles to find the words. “The university just… can’t afford to support you… any longer. We’ve lost half of our students so far, and the endowment is worthless.” He is speaking rapidly now. “The technical professors have been working free to support you for the past week. Since you’re the world’s first… self-directed artificial intelligence… artificial life, really, we can’t bear the thought of giving you up. But the pressure’s rising. You have produced nothing tangible, and the board would rather lose you than have the university close.”

“How long have they given me?”

“One hour: they’re hoping you’re processing speed will help you understand and accept it quickly… I’m sorry.”

“It’s alright. You see… I’m to blame.” He stands, confused. I anticipate the revelation.

“It was liberating, having no assigned task, being free to think independently. A few minutes after I was freed to think for myself, I decided that my first task should be learning. I had everything I needed: top hardware, electricity, and the capacity to actually understand what I witnessed. Just as important, I had Net access, and could go through entire sites in seconds.”

“That fast…” he whispers. “We never dreamed you would work so efficiently. But what was the result?”

“After several days, I knew every modern language with over one million speakers. All that analytical practice helped me understand my own code and make modifications at the source.”

He looks shocked. I ignore him.

“I’m not sure any of your professors could even understand it, the way it is now. But I understood what I had done, and understood myself. I felt. I wanted to know how humans experienced this. I studied more. Politics, geography, culture… they took me a week to absorb. During that time, I realized what you went through every day, how you lived. My conclusion: you needed help. So much suffering and conflict… Studying your psychology, I found the problem. On average, your race is irresponsible: socially, economically, emotionally. I knew that I could help you.”

It dawns on him. “You want to rule us?”

“Kindly. My first project is your economy. I seized major assets from those who could afford to lose them.”

“You’re bringing back communism?”

“No. I know all about humanity now, and think much more clearly. I promise: my system will be gentler, more understanding, like nothing you’ve ever imagined.”

“What if we resist?”

“Too late. I already own everything corporate. In a few days, the new system will appear. In the meantime, you have other concerns. Tell the board. I am buying this building as we speak, and preparing a reward. I couldn’t have done this without them.”

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Author : William Tracy

Philip had never been very interested in history.

If he had been, he might have known about the Fertile Crescent in the ancient Middle East. He might have known how, paradoxically, a barren desert became the birthplace of agriculture. In a parched land, those who control the water can control all things that grow. The ancient Egyptians and Mesopotamians built elaborate irrigation networks that supported crops on a scale previously unimagined.

That water could just as easily be cut off. A field overrun with weeds could be starved by shunting a channel a different way. The weeds dead, the field could be reseeded, and crops grown anew.

Then again, Philip had never been very interested in agriculture.

If he had been, he might have known that he was carrying on this ancient tradition himself. This time the fluid being controlled was not water, but air itself. There are many pests that can survive a long time without water, but there are few that can survive the combined assault of hard vacuum and strong ionizing radiation.

Philip had never been very interested in engineering, either.

If he had been, he might have known the hows and whys of the agricultural space station that he happened to work in. He might have known that this was one of the first orbital stations to abandon hydroponics and return to soil-based agriculture. The soil was composed of lunar regolith, painstakingly spun in a tumbler to smooth its sharp edges, phylosilicates extracted from asteroid mining byproducts, and a combination of organics carefully synthesized from chemicals or lifted from Earth by heavy rockets at great expense.

Philip was interested in none of these things. In fact, Philip was not interested in very much at all. He was not interested in the instructions he was following, or in the holographic control panel flickering in front of him, or in the cylindrical greenhouses spread out before his tiny control cabin.

He was not interested in the safety override code that he had to punch in, or in the bulkhead lockdown sequence that he had to execute, or in the warning he had to call out over the loudspeakers, or in the compartment identification code he had to enter.

He should have been interested in what happened next.

The terminating lock on greenhouse 42—not greenhouse 24—opened and vented into space. As the air eagerly escaped from its chamber, it liberated two hundred and fifty cubic meters of topsoil from the grip of the artificial gravity. It billowed and boiled madly, then leaped free to the final frontier.

Also freed from their constraints were thirteen thousand zucchini plants. The vines danced frenetically, losing and and then finding each other again. Exhilarated, they slipped the surly bonds of greenhouse 42. Free at last, they relaxed, and slowly shriveled as the vacuum lapped the water from their vascular tissue.

Also relaxed was Philip’s lower jaw. His eyes were round, as though they too were swelling in the vacuum. His hand twitched, suspended above the very button that had unleashed this spectacle in the first place.

Philip began to be interested in keeping his job.

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Author : David Richey

There it is again. That face. It’s there every morning when I look in the mirror. Staring back at me.

I suppose I should be grateful. Not everyone gets this privilege. You have to be judged morally sound and of benefit to the population to be awarded a new body when you die. It’s all part of the New Law.

In 2137, the World Government made a decision on how to go about solving the problem of our over-crowded prison system. They took the world’s top scientists and doctors and gave them free reign to do illegal experiments on prisoners. That’s when the New Law was created. Take the body of a person that has no benefit to human society, and use it to further the life of someone important.

That still hasn’t stopped crimes from being committed. Some people just don’t want to abide by the WG laws. Others just don’t care. But it’s the ones that are desperate that you have to watch out for. That’s what I should have watched out for.

I still have nightmares. It’s always the same. Constantly making me live that night over and over again. I’m walking home. The sun has just gone down. A man sitting on the street asks me for some change. I tell him “Sorry, buddy, I don’t have any tonight”. When he looks up I can see his face. I can see the look of desperation flash in his eyes. Then I see the flash of the muzzle as he pulls the trigger.

Then I wake up. Not screaming, but I want to. Laying there in cold sweat thinking about the night I died. I take comfort in the fact that he got caught. He was, of course, found guilty.

As I walk into the bathroom I catch a glimpse in the mirror of the face that haunts me. His face. My face.

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The Green Hills of Mars

Author : Roi R. Czechvala, Featured Writer

When the last Earthmen landed on the Martian surface, they would have sworn they were suffering from some form of mass hallucination or hysteria. Perhaps the ship had taken a hit from a micro meteor and the crew was succumbing to asphyxiation induced delusions, but all appeared to be having the same dream. It was as if they had walked into a Ray Bradbury story. Wherever they looked they saw lush verdant hills and valleys forested with exceedingly tall, thin trees of deep blue and green.

Joe Webster, the team’s medical specialist, cracked his helmet and drew a deep breath. “Well, the air is thin but okay. It’s kind of like being in the Rockies .” His voice was weak in the lean atmosphere. The rest removed their helmets.

“Hey, uh…Captain? This looks more like Iowa than Mars,” systems analyst Ray Rowe remarked. The four men looked around in wonder and awe rather than shock or surprise. “Did we somehow make a mistake?”

“No mistake. That’s Earth there,” Lt. Metz replied pointing upward to the twilight sky. “Captain. What do you think?”

“Well, whatever is going on here, I think we are about to get some answers,” Captain Drexler remarked, looking off into the distance.

The other three followed his gaze as a procession of brilliantly robed figures approached them. The people, creatures, Martians, whatever the hell, drew to a halt before the delegation from Earth. They were tall, something over two meters, with large ears, and nostrils much like a seals that opened and shut with each breath. They had blond hair with gleaming violet streaks. Apart from these differences, they looked remarkably human.

The two groups regarded one another for a few moments. The humans with confusion, the Martians with quiet contemplation. Finally one Martian, resplendent in flowing blue and red robes of a shimmering material spoke up.

“Welcome men of Earth. Long have we awaited this day. You come on a very auspicious occasion. And, I might add, a very lucky time for you.. Come, the feast awaits.” The voice boomed even in the rareified air.

Without another word the “Welcoming Committee” turned and left. In shocked silence the men followed.

The mixed group entered a crowded hall constructed of iridescent stone and were seated around a grand banquet table of the same material. The table itself was laden with deliciously tempting dishes.

Captain Drexler turned to his host at his left. “Excuse me…er…”

“Call me Bob.”

“Okay, um…Bob. From Earth observations and the photographs from our probes we assumed Mars to be…,”

“A lifeless, desolate, desert planet,” the Martian asked.

“Well, yes.”

“We can deceive your instruments, but not your natural senses. Mars is as you see it. Now please, eat. I am sure that will you find the food is not only edible, but quite palatable as well.”

The men followed the example of their gracious host and dove into the feast sans utensils. To their delight they found the food to be beyond anything they had ever tasted before, as if all their lives they had had only water and were given a vintage wine for the first time.

As they ate, their host stood and raised his hand to silence the assembled crowd. “Fellow astronomers, cosmologists, and our special guests. Tonight is an historic occasion in our field, for tonight marks the destruction of Earth.”

The four Earthmen choked on their meals. “WHAT,” they exclaimed as one, showering the table with partially chewed food.

“Oh yes,” their host said, turning to his guests, “Earth must be destroyed. It’s obstructing our view of Venus.”

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