What Would Tinky Do

Author : Sharoda

Sitting in front of the large group of children, the scarred Captain continued reading the dog-eared picture book. “Then, Tinky the Tiny Tank moved out into the open”

“No Tinky, stay in the rocks!” cried many of the younger children; the cave echoed with their voices. Some of the older ones smiled, they’d heard this story many times.

“He tried to be sneaky but then he ran into…”

“A Miitok”, he and the children said together. They all knew the enemy was fast in the open but slow on uneven ground.

“Tinky was scared, he wanted to run but he knew the Miitok would catch him. He wanted to hide but he knew it would find him. He wanted to give up but he knew it would…”

“Eat him.” The children said in hushed voices.

“Then Tinky remembered the Rules To Live By”, he was skipping parts but there wasn’t much time.

He held up his index finger and the children all said “Be brave”.

“Don’t show fear to the Miitok” he added.

He held up 2 fingers and they said “Stand your ground”.

“Don’t try to run, it’ll catch you. Stand and fight”.

He held up 3 fingers and they said “Aim for the face.”

And what rule did Tinky break”, he asked holding up 4 fingers.

“Stay together” came the group reply.

He put down the book, “Just like Tinky, you’re all going to have to be brave because today we have to leave the cave and travel on open ground to the Big Blue Mountain.” The children made nervous scared sounds, some started to cry. Miitok drones were digging thru the other end of the tunnels and their parents were holding them off.

“You all have one of these”, he held up what looked like a toy pistol but was actually a microwave disruptor tuned to only activate on Miitok brainwave patterns. The children could play with these “guns” all they wanted but not hurt each other. However it would cause searing pain to the sensing organs of a Miitok. Several together could kill a drone or even a soldier. “And you all know how to use them. When Tinky crossed open ground he was alone and he survived. We have each other. We’ll make it.” He motioned to the teachers and all the children stood and moved down the path to the cave entrance. A hand full of soldiers and older teens carried heavier weapons.

Jensa was 12, Mina and Jak were 8. Mina was yelling because they were going to miss story time and Jak was yelling because he couldn’t find his parent’s picture and wouldn’t leave without it. Jensa was frazzled and, finding the picture, rushed the twins out to the gathering area.

Everyone was already gone so she herded them to the cave entrance and then out in the open while trying to catch up with the group. Her twin siblings complained bitterly until they realized they were outside, Jensa urged them to keep moving.

When they got to the river the rest of the group was already on the other shore. Suddenly, the large dark figure of a Miitok drone blocked their path.

Jensa froze. She almost screamed but caught herself.

“Be brave” said Jak and pulled his pistol.

“Stand your ground” said Mina and pulled hers.

Jensa unfroze, pulled and aimed her pistol. “Aim for the face” she said.

They pooled their fire and the drone started to scream. It fell dead at their feet.

“Now stay together” she barked and led them into the river.

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Gateway to Nowhere

Author : James King

The gate shimmered like a disk of melted solder. After all this time, the idea of inter-dimensional travel still amazed Alex. Wrapping his mind around the fact that, though it is a new world that is being explored, it’s the same time, same location in the galaxy, just a different dimension took some getting used to.

He stared back watching the rest of the team come through the gate, helpless to stop them. The surprised look on each of their faces as they stepped through reminded him of the first time anyone had ever attempted inter-dimensional travel.

The team was much younger back then, chuckling nervously as straws were drawn to see who would be the first through the gate. Everyone claimed they wanted to be first, but the relief was evident when a long straw was drawn. Alex got the first short straw and has been the first one through the gate ever since.

He was starting to shiver from the cold.

The amount of power required in forming the gateway forced the exploration team to travel through quickly. Safety protocols were established so that each team member was prepared for any possible contingency, whether environmental or hostile. Alex thought to himself that this was one scenario that never came up during the simulations.

He wanted to shout out in the hopes someone would hear him, but he knew that was futile as he floated further from the gate. Devoid of air the vacuum of space was deafeningly silent. Everyone dispersed like droplets from a splash of water hitting the ground, drifting away from the gate and away from each other. He finally realized that the weapon he clutched tightly to his body was useless and let it go, watching it drift away.

The environmental containment suit he wore provided oxygen and some protection from the harsh cold, but it wouldn’t last long. He wonders if they will attempt to send another team to locate them when they don’t return, understanding this to be an academic question, since they all would have long since expired from the cold or lack of oxygen before this possibility would occur.

No one ever thought, especially after all the worlds they had explored, that traveling to a dimension where the earth no longer existed was a possibility. A contingency never planned for and a lesson learned the hard way. Alex watched the gate, looking like the surface of a dark pond, getting smaller as he drifted further away. He marveled at the beauty of space. Alex had always wanted to be an astronaut. Weightlessness is even better than he imagined.

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An understanding

Author : Helstrom

“What are you doing?”

I looked up from the astrogation table and into the curious eyes of a five-year-old girl hovering in the access hatch.

“Hey, hey,” I said, “I don’t think you’re supposed to be here.”

“I wanted to see out the window. Captain said it was okay.”

Of course he had. The captain was a ‘fourth generation’ spacer. Back in my time, with mining operations just beginning, spacers were recruited from the ranks of kumpels, roughnecks and sat-divers, resulting in strongly reeking ships populated by loud men with short necks and the very strong absence of curiosity that comes from living in an environment where any moving part you don’t know intimately can probably kill you. These days the profit margins were so huge they were shipping out whole families who would spend most of their life on one of the colonies – including their children.

“Okay then,” I smiled, “But just a few minutes. I’m doing important stuff.”

She flashed a grin revealing a few missing teeth and pushed herself through the hatch, deftly settling into a corner between the tracking telescope and the cupola frame. Children adapted to free-fall in next to no time at all. At the turn of a switch, the cupola blinds withdrew and space unfolded before us. She glued herself to the window for a while, but deep space isn’t much to look at and she soon took more interest in the myriad of astrogation equipment in the room.

Settling herself in the cupola, she asked: “Is that the map?”

“No, not really. I don’t use a lot of maps. This is a plot, it shows me how much time it takes until we have to make another burn, like when we left. Remember how you had to stay in bed and got real heavy? That was a burn,”

She scowled, “I know what a burn is, silly. So it tells you where we’re going?”

“Well, pretty much, yes.”

“Then it’s a map!” She giggled triumphantly.

“You’re smarter than you look with those missing teeth.”

“Don’t you have a computer for this?”

“I do – three, in fact. But computers can be wrong sometimes, and most of the knobs and dials in here let me check things for myself. If it gets really bad I can even do it on paper.”

“What if you’re wrong too?”

“Well, that depends on how far wrong I am We could crash into Venus instead of going into orbit. Or we could shoot past her, pick up a gravity boost and fly into the sun if we’re too fast for a rescue boat to catch up with us. But my job is to make sure that doesn’t happen so you get to your new home safely.”

She nodded, a serious frown on her face, “That’s very important.”

It was the nicest thing anyone had said about my work in a while – I laughed and gave her a hug before pushing her back towards the hatch: “Now, go back to the ring and let me work, okay? I’ll show you more after dinner if you want. Oh, and if you see the captain, make sure you tell him how important my job is.”

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Author : Timothy E. Bacon & Paul J. Green

Jones lowered the thermal imager from his eyes and wiped the adrenaline sweat from his face. There were still a dozen heat signatures secured down the street amidst the no man’s land of twisted girders and stone rubble. The last of the insurgents were hunkered in, fixed and fortified; it was going to be difficult to flush them out.

He slumped back against the rusted hulk of a car. The rush of the berserker pad he had inhaled earlier was wearing off and his nerve endings were jangling. He fingered the seeping bandage on his arm where he had been clipped by a bullet and a dull throbbing pain settled in at the base of his skull.

They had been dropped hot into the LZ at dawn and Jones had led a frenzied charge through the devastated city. Rebels had overrun the streets and his squad was forced to give no quarter and no mercy. They had suffered heavy casualties, mostly raw recruits fresh out of boot. Sanders had taken one in the throat and had screamed silent and wet. Taylor had lost half his head and had stumbled around like a zombie before dropping. All of them had been noble sacrifices in an effort to liberate a dead city.

Manhattan had been swallowed by a firestorm many years ago. A misguided revolt had left three million souls kissed by flame and fusion in its wake. Buildings had been refashioned and reborn by a madman’s touch; their metal and glass skins flayed open and exposed. Lady Liberty still stood at the mouth of the Hudson, scorched black and pockmarked with shells. Her torch raised high in defiance against the surrounding destruction.

Jones felt tense and cobra-coiled. An anxious silence hung over the street broken only by sporadic gunfire and the sharp squeal of radio chatter. There were no options left. A frontal assault on the remaining rebels was reckless. He would have to call in an air-strike. He punched in the co-ordinates and thumbed his squawk pad. “Bring down the thunder.”

The Valkyries blasted low through the concrete canyons, their triple rotors thrumming whisper quiet, their sleek, dark shapes swooping in and out of the derelict towers.

Jones watched the ships streak past. “Heads up, there’s birds in the canyon.”

The Valkyries chopped in heavy over the target, kicking up clouds of debris, and raining down a barrage of scatter bombs. The world flared white as a dozen small suns dawned on the street smashing and scattering the rebels. The lucky ones were vaporized instantly. The stragglers, screaming and clutching at their burnt flesh and ruined eyes, were left to the wrath of the snipers who dropped them one after another from their perches high above the devastation.

Jones gave the signal to stand down. There was nothing left to do now but a quick sweep to tag and bag the bodies. He started to clamber over the debris. Someone cleared their throat behind him.

He turned to see Corporal Martin tapping his watch.

“Hey Jones, it’s quitting time!”

Jones looked back at his squad. They were a motley group; beaten, bloodied, and tired. They wanted nothing more than to head home, kiss their wives, hold their babies, and knock back a few pints at the local bar. Jones allowed himself a tight smile. They’d earned their pay today. These men of the 83rd Reclamation Division were some of the best he’d ever served with; the very elite that the New York City Sanitation Department had to offer. He was proud of them. They were true garbage men.

“You guys go ahead. I’m going to put in some overtime.”

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Author : Roi R. Czechvala, Staff Writer

“You’re dead.” She said. Her voice was ice. Her eyes held no emotion.

“So you say.” I lit a cigarette, exhaling blue smoke towards the ceiling.

“That’s illegal you know.”

I snapped the antique lighter shut. “What are they going to do? Kill me?” I barked a laugh, which startled her back to reality.

“I don’t understand,” she choked back a sob. “Why do you do this to me? I loved you, I’ve always loved you, and you only keep coming back to hurt me.”

Poor kid. I really should never have done that to her. She never deserved it. She was too good for me. But hey, I’m a prick.

Or used to be. I’m dead now. Or at least the part that used to be me is dead; the essence, the being, the divine spark, the soul if you will. Whatever you may call it, the ghost in the machine fled, and all that is left is this unfeeling automaton. The memories of Gerry Carter are still here, that’s a certainty, but I….he has moved on, leaving only a morbid, morose creature behind.

“Why are you doing this? You were my world. I gave you everything, our children, my very life to save you.”

She was beautiful. Forty five and three children later, she was still beautiful. Long dark red hair and longer legs. She always kept dinner for me. Always greeted me at the door. Whenever she discovered my indiscretions she forgave me, and asked what she did to make me stray.

She turned on me with sudden venom. “You’re dead Gerald. Why do you keep rising again to torment me? What have I done to deserve this?”

“Nothing… I don’t know…,” my voice cracked. I violate the very laws of Death just for a few minutes with her. Just to see those clear blue eyes, those auburn tresses.

“I love you I guess,” I said, shrugging like an embarrassed little school boy.

“Love me? You love me? You fucking bastard. Don’t you dare use that word with me. A corpse can’t love.” She spat in my face.

“Look, can’t I just…,”

“What you can do is end this farce. Leave me alone. No more resurrections, please. I can’t take it anymore.” Her shoulders slumped. Her voice, shrill only moments ago, was now empty and without hope.

“Is that what you really want?”

“That’s what I want,” she said, her voice flat.

She didn’t say a word as I raised the pistol and pointed it at her forehead. She stood before me defiantly, proudly. Her shoulders thrown back and her head held high.

The .45 slug made a neat round hole in her skull. I was amazed every time that there was so little blood from the wound. She crumpled straight to the floor, as if she was standing supported, and then instantly those supports had been ripped away.

As always, I stood over her wondering what I could have done differently. What I should have done to begin with. What led me to kill the only women I had ever loved. Or thought I had at any rate.

I shed not one tear as I bent to pick her up, her fragile body almost weightless in my arms. I placed her body in the Jesus tank. The rejuvenating fluids glowed ivory around her. She would be ready for resurrection in another year. The anniversary of her death. She had taken her own life rather than embarrass me with a divorce.

She was right; is right, I am a heartless, soulless individual, a ghoul.

I am dead.

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