Author : Sam Davis
Today was the day, Kari decided. Today she was going to tell Abe. She was going to have a drink and work up the nerve and send him a message and then he would come by and then she could just tell him. She could take her time and explain—Abe was a good listener after all. That was one of the things she loved about him.
She really did love him. It wasn’t him that was the problem. Well not really. But she had decided that today would be the day she would tell him. She moved to the console and carefully typed up a note. It went much quicker than the casual observer might expect. Of course the casual observer didn’t know that Kari wrote him a new note every day and had been doing so for the past three weeks.
Today she pressed send.
And then panic hit. “ohgodohgodohmygod! What am I going to say? He’ll be heartbroken. How could I do this? He is such the perfect guy. Why am I such an awful girl to him? Why can’t I just be happy with him? I need gin!”
Two blocks away, Abe’s HUD displayed “1 new message”. A quick mental command opened the message. From Kari. Abe’s heart fluttered a little seeing her name. “Surprise,” Abe thought. “Everything works like normal.” This really was a pleasant surprise because sometimes feelings change after the transfer or the body responds differently than one is used to. Kari wanted to talk. She asked to meet at her place. She said ASAP. Kari never says ASAP. Abe knew that the decision had been the right one. Maybe a name was in order.
Minutes later, Kari jumped as she heard the door bell ring. Downing the gin and tonic—minus the tonic—she ran to the kitchen to deposit the glass. Again the doorbell sounded and she almost dropped the glass. “Deep breaths. Hold it together.” The glass clicked against the counter. She strode back into the living room and, mustering up all her courage, she opened the door.
“Abe look, the thing is I….” was as far as she got before she actually took stock of what was going on.
“Kari, I know. I’ve known for a while.” Abe paused, hoping that she wouldn’t pass out. The voice would take some getting used to but Kari was worth it. After all, Abe had already come this far. “I put in for the transfer about a month ago. And I know I should have talked to you about it but…” Abe looked down at the new body. “Well I wanted it to be a surprise and well…yeah. So here I am. Just for you darling.”
Kari stated to smile. Oh gosh he really was wonderful. No that wouldn’t apply any more.
“Oh and I guess you can call me Abbey.”
Author : John C. Osborn
The shakes began to violently intensify. Janus couldn’t bear it much longer, the nauseating craving, the blankness of mind, the emotional emptiness. He tightly gripped a long slender metallic canister that cost him a days worth of panhandling cash. His index finger rubbed a trigger button, which it wanted badly to press. The brown-washed beach accommodated others like himself – dingy-looking, rancid-smelling drifters caressing bottles inserted into their noses, some rolling on sand, others swaying in the warm sticky breeze absorbed in a deep trance-like state. This would be his refuge during the Trip.
After finding a secluded spot below a broken wooden pier, Janus stuck two short stubby tubes on top of the canister into his nostrils, felt the cold rubber scratch his sinuses, releasing a thin stream of blood that trickled down to his chin. Eyes closed, breathing deeply in and out, he pushed the button.
A rush raced right into his brain, bombarding his sensory centers with a barrage of scents. A salty sea breeze. Sun block smeared on skin. Sand saturated with a fishy smell. They formed images, resurrected long-buried memories of days before the giant dust bowls, the catastrophic toxic spills, and great global economic collapse.
Janus smiled and opened his eyes. He looked awestruck watching the plump orange sun igniting the sky with red and purple colors as it fell below the skyline. The crystal blue ocean stretched infinitely into the horizon and stretched back toward shore, waves breaking against the white sand. He felt the warm water wash against his bare feet as the tide rolled in with a whoosh. A tear rolled down his cheek feeling the soothing sea breeze tickle his ear, listening to seagulls fly overhead, embracing the stillness – the serenity – of the moment.
Then the vision broke. The scene shattered like glass. The once pleasant smells morphed into stagnant sewage. The ocean became a brown sludge. The blue sky hid behind a curtain of thick dark yellow smog. The carcass of seagulls and other animals lay scattered across the trash-covered, discolored beach.
Janus felt that familiar sorrow return. He held the canister, which had the word Nostalgia® – the Breezy Beach flavor – written down the side. It felt empty, like he did. He discarded it into the sand and dropped to his knees, already itching for the next Trip, anything resembling the world he once lived in. He laid on the sand in a fetal position, sobbing, shaking, yearning for another hit.
Janus controlled his breathing and sat up. He scanned the beach glimpsing others like himself seize with euphoria in the sand like fish flopping out of water, metal canister pumping scents that recalled memories straight to their brains.
It wasn’t always like this, he thought. There was a time when you could swim in the ocean here, a time when you could hike in the woods, even a time where you could drink the water without it being in a bottle. But it all changed.
Janus sniffed and rubbed his nose. The rebound from his Trip subsided, leaving a lingering lust for another hit that he could feel on his lips. He stumbled to his feet, looked down at the empty Nostalgia® bottle in the sand. Perhaps, he thought, I’ll try the Redwood Rush next.
Author : Steve Smith, Staff Writer
She watched him, often, from the other side of his bedroom mirror, a floor to ceiling affair that allowed her the privilege of spectating from the comfort of her own space.
He would come and go, sometimes alone, sometimes with others. He would wrap himself in sheets of colour, most times his companions would too, but other times they would press just their flesh against one another.
This fascinated her.
The shapes his face made were peculiar, and she began to recognize them as states of being. Sometimes his face was broad, his mouth wide, insides showing white and gleaming. Other times his face creased, contracted in upon itself, on occasion becoming shiny in patches as he quivered.
An unusual specimen to be sure.
She knew she was pleasing, knew from the various shapes and colours of the creatures he kept company with that she too could be satisfying to him, be satisfied by him. She was certain that he would share with her his illuminated state of being, the broad face and gaping maw that she believed was an indication of pleasure.
While he idled, resting, she reached out to him, siphoning away vibrations from his unconscious mind. These things excited her, these random experiential happenings that he shared so unknowingly.
She needed more from him.
There were times when he would stop while passing, looking at his mirror, looking right at her, as though he knew the mirror was merely a window, a portal into her space. She knew he could not see, knew with absolute certainty, but in these moments she froze, not daring to move. Sensations of fear, the need to escape overwhelmed her, but so did the need to stay, to be with him, to have him near her. He would shake away his gaze, his visage one of unusual creases, motion and contraction.
The sensations stayed with her for a time after he departed, and she found she was developing an insatiable appetite for them.
In the darkened hours, when the only light in his space was that filtering in from the portals to his outside world, she would thin the membrane between their spaces to its limit, pressing herself as closely to it as she dared without crossing over so as to be as close to him as was possible. Sometimes he would stare at her through the darkness, unsure of what he could see.
It was one such dark period that found them only the barest distance apart. He searching the darkness with his eyes, reaching tentatively towards a mirror that no longer showed a reflection he recognized, and she pressed against the membrane from the other side, frozen in place.
The sensations that flooded her senses were overwhelming, beyond even her ability to control them. She fought the urge to escape, to slip away, to opaque the wall between them and retreat to a safe distance. When his hand touched her from the other side, it was more than she could bear.
He slipped easily through the membrane, joining her in her own space without resistance. Where his hand first contacted her skin, she felt the heat of his presence, and she craved more of it. Enveloping him, she watched as his face began to undulate through the variations she was sure were those of pleasure. His eyes widened, his mouth opened, white endoskeletal elements exposed. His mouth gaped, closed and opened again, eyes wider as his body undulated, his fire radiating outward from him, through her into the cold vacuum of her space.
She found him beautiful, first in motion, then still.
Recognizing his stillness as a rest state, she contented herself with holding him as he cooled.
Author : Duncan Shields, Staff Writer
We had created a society free of disease and violence. We had a society that was centered on fun and learning. We had a society that knew the difference between entertainment and education. We had cross-bred to the point that there were no more ‘races’ left.
We had a peaceful empire that spanned three systems and an average individual life expectancy of five hundred years.
Human beings have always thought of each point in their history as their most advanced. It’s like there’s a temporal egotism that says This, Right Here, Is the Best We’ve Ever Been stamped into everyone’s brain.
I suppose that’s what screwed us up as well. They say pride goeth before a fall.
We should never have woken them up.
There was a system wide ‘awakening’ party that had been organized for a decade. Everyone that had ever been put into cryogenic storage was taken out, cured, cloned, re-canted, simmed or given a construct and brought back to life on the same day.
It was joyous. Great15 grandchildren met with ancestors for the first time. Wet, happy eyes looked at historical figures live and breathe. Great learned minds were brought to us intact. It was seen as a heartfelt victory of the soul for all of humanity.
It was the stupidest thing we’d ever done.
Remember, we looked at warfare like witch-burning; an embarrassing footnote on our race’s way to glory. We hadn’t had a war in two centuries. We had no idea.
War takes no time to spread. With our long life spans and peace-loving ways, it didn’t take long for the Cryos to band together for familiar company. After they bound together, it didn’t take long for them to have a problem with us and demand space for themselves and *only* themselves. We gave it to them.
They wanted more.
They attacked. The reports came out from Earth with bloodstained shock. Reporters openly wept when reading back the details from the teleprompter.
We had to refer to our nets to look up the meanings of new words like ‘border’ ‘money’ and ‘opressed’. A dead vocabulary sprang back to life. Sparks were lit in distant recesses of the collective unconscious.
Horrified people on Earth were angry. A human thirst for revenge, long dead, awakened in dormant parts of the brainstem. Suddenly, there was a ‘them’ and it was invasive. Protection was the only answer.
Battles became frequent and even more disturbing was that on all sixteen planets, we watched, wide eyed and panting, at the carnage.
It changed us. That was the beginning of the war. It took seven years.
In the end, the Cryos were exterminated in a final solution reminiscent of an ancient political party known as the Nazis. So were the people that helped them. And the friends of the people suspected of helping them. Even the Cryos that had sided with us were put to death as well for the good of us all. It was too late.
A division grew amongst us at the gory repercussions of our murderous bloodthirsty decision. First political battles broke out, then actual physical ones. Earth01 demanded to secede from the union. Then Saturn’s Moons and archipelagos. Korthos followed suit.
Sides were drawn. Tempers were high.
We lost Mars altogether in that flashpoint attack. We have a larger asteroid belt now in the Sol system where that planet used to be.
That was the end of peace. We run and gun now. The sleeper has awakened. We look back and shake our heads. We should have let sleeping dogs lie.
Author : Patricia Stewart, Staff Writer
“If the human ambassador moves, kill him,” ordered the Torellian captain. His two security guards instantly leveled their phasers at Ambassador Dorn.
Dorn smiled, and said to his security escort, “Men, if the Torellian guards shoot me, you are to kill the two guards, and captain T’Noroi, before my body hits the deck. Understood?”
“Aye, sir,” was the simultaneous reply.
Then, Dorn defiantly marched across the bridge of the Torelian flagship, and stopped inches in front of the Torellian captain. The Torrellian guards twitched, but never fired. “Well, Captain, back on Earth, this is what we’d call a ‘Mexican standoff’. Will we die together, or talk?”
T’Noroi’s expression had changed three times during Dorn’s approach; from shock that the earthman had ignored his threat, to anger that his guards didn’t carry out his orders, and finally to a thin smile at the ambassador’s imperiousness. After a few seconds, his smile evolved into a chuckle that culminated in a hardy laugh. “Ambassador,” he said, “I do believe Earth has sent the right negotiator. Guards, holster your weapons.”
Dorn turned toward his men, and winked. They acknowledged, and also stowed their phasers. Dorn returned his attention to T’Noroi. “Surely Captain, the Torrelians don’t want to start an interstellar war over this worthless asteroid,” he pointed toward the five mile wide asteroid that was visible on the bridge’s main viewscreen.
“You have no claim on that asteroid, Ambassador. It’s clearly in our space.”
“That may be true, Captain, but when the treaty was signed, the asteroid was in our space, and hence, it’s our property.” Localized conflicts between Earth forces and the Torrelians had been escalating for years. All out war was considered inevitable. Dorn’s mission was to convince the Torrelians that a war with Earth would not be in their best interest.
“Well, I say it belongs to the Torellian Empire,” argued Captain T’Noroi. But, Ambassador, I can be reasonable. I’ll make you a proposal. If you can push the asteroid back into Earth space, you can keep it.” Again, he laughed.
Undaunted, Dorn replied, “I’ll make you a counter proposal, Captain. How about we destroy the asteroid, and you can keep the debris.”
Amused, T’Noroi decided to call the earthman’s bluff. “Be my guest, Ambassador. It will be interesting to see such an audacious attempt. That asteroid’s mass is a billion times larger than your ship. I’ll be sure to send the recorded images of your futility back to the homeworld. It will be great fair for the late night talk shows.”
Dorn opened his communicator and said “Commander, destroy the asteroid.”
As the ambassador and captain watched, a beam of light streaked from the earth ship toward the asteroid. Almost instantly, the asteroid exploded into a billion fiery fragments. T’Noroi’s pompous grin disappeared. He was clearly awed by the display of firepower. He became weak, and collapsed into his command chair, speechless.
“Well, I guess I’ll be heading back to my ship now, Captain. Sorry about the mess.”
Dorn didn’t start laughing until he returned to his own bridge. “Nice shot, Commander. Perfect timing on the detonation. You thoroughly impressed the Torelians.”
“I can imagine. I wish I was there to see T’Noroi’s face. The two tons of antimatter that we buried in the asteroid last year was nearly one half of Earth’s total supply.”
“Worth every ounce, Commander. I don’t think the Torellians will be itching for a fight with Earth anytime soon.”