Author : Elle B Sullivan
He stood in the exact center of the house. There were three clocks on each of the four walls. He had set them up perfectly to tick at the same time and then tock at the same time. He counted the four seconds on each clock, when the fifth second came around; he switched his gaze to a new clock. He did this for the first minute of every hour and every fourth hour he would stay for four minutes.
“Evan?” His mother called from the kitchen. Evan was a perfect name. Four letters: e-v-a-n. Vowel-Consonant-Vowel-Consonant. No tall letters like “k” or low letters like “j.” He hated “m’s” and “w’s” because they were much too wide. Evan Rose… r-o-s-e. Consonant-Vowel-Consonant-Vowel.
“Evan, it’s time for dinner.” He counted the last few seconds as the second-hand ticked through the eleven, then turned at a ninety-degree angle and strode out of the room.
“What are we having?” Evan asked, careful to only use four words in his question.
“Tomato soup and grilled cheese again. I forgot to go to the store yesterday.”
“I can run to the store for some.” Eight words. Four twice.
“No, I need to get some things for the weekend anyway.”
“Okay, if you change your mind please let me know very soon.” Twelve words. Four three times.
“That’s very sweet of you honey.” She kissed his head and sat down with the two bowls of soup. His grilled cheese sandwich was cut into four perfect triangles. He grabbed his spoon and stirred the soup four times. Then he picked up a sandwich, dipped it into his soup four times, and took a bite. He took three more bites, put his sandwich down, and stirred the soup four times again.
Later that evening Evan was reading a book while his mother watched the evening news. He would read four sentences, look up, and then read four more.
“It’s eight Evan, time for bed.” She said softly. Evan looked up at the clock and waited until the second-hand reached the ten, then got up and walked to the center of the house and counted the first minute before walking to his bedroom. “Goodnight sweetheart.” Evan climbed into bed and counted the corners of his room. He fell asleep within four minutes.
It was ten o’clock and Evan’s mother was in her closet talking to headquarters.
“He’s been on four for at least three weeks. Is it time to up the dosage and see how he reacts?”
“Last time we changed it to five, he received higher mathematical scores and higher reaction scores. I feel that six might be a good change of pace. To see if his scores increase exponentially or linearly.”
“Very well, I will change the pulse rate to six.” Evan’s mother walked into Evan’s room, picked up his arm, and adjusted the settings on his watch. She listened for the six small electrical pulses to start at twenty-second intervals, and then typed in something on the keypad by his door.
“Steven. Steven. Steven. Steven.” The speaker slowly said his name over and over. Six letters.
Author : Patricia Stewart, Staff Writer
Laredo’s tugship was idling peacefully in geosynchronous orbit. Laredo was ten screens from the end of Asimov’s Second Foundation when the LSC alarm sounded, followed by a vocal transmission. “Code 13, Sector E180D500.”
In one fluid motion, Laredo brought the main engines online and activated the comm system. “This is Sam Laredo. Please verify that a cruise ship has lost stability control only 500,000 kilometers from Earth.”
“Roger that, Laredo. But it gets worse. Its course will intersect Earth in 68 minutes. If you can’t realign the magnetic plate in 25 minutes, the ship will have to be destroyed. It carries 423 passengers, and a crew of 192. Please assess the situation and report your findings ASAP.
Lerado headed toward Sector E180D450 at full throttle. The tugship utilized conventional reaction engines for propulsion and guidance. However, for the last hundred years or so, the larger sublight vessels, like the cruise ship, rely on MASIS for their primary propulsion. MASIS is the acronym for Magnetic Amplification by Synchronous Isolinear Solenoidazation. MASIS uses large ground-based transmitters to project extremely strong magnetic fields into space, similar to a search light. The magnetic field is precisely columnated, so it only loses 10% of its strength per trillion kilometers, rather than obeying the inverse square law typical of magnetic fields. By convention, these MASIS driven ships have a 3 mega-gauss “South Pole” electromagnet plate at their stern, and a similar “North Pole” in the bow. Therefore, the ships can be pulled, or pushed, by any of the numerous Pulse Magnet Stations on the Earth, Moon, Mars, Ceres, Ganymede, or Titan. Prior to MASIS, ships needed to carry more fuel than cargo. Now, they’re almost all cargo, except for the guidance jets. But whenever the guidance jets malfunction, the ship loses alignment, and the magnetic propulsion system can’t be used to stop them.
When Lerado reached the cruise ship just outside the moon’s orbit, it was tumbling stem over stern. “Control, this is Laredo. We have a tumbler, RPM 1.82.”
“Can you get it aligned in under 20 minutes?”
“Negative. It will take at least an hour to arrest the tumble.”
“Copy that, Laredo. Return to your post. I’ll notify Asteroid Defense.”
“Whoa. We can’t just give up that easily. They’re over 600 people on that ship.” Laredo racked his brain to come up with something. “Look,” he finally said, “I have an idea. Maybe I can push it sideways while it’s still tumbling, like a baton twirler tossing a baton. If she misses the Earth, I’ll stop the tumble on the sun side, and you can pull her back using MASIS.”
Not waiting for authorization, Laredo moved his tug to the center of the cruise ship’s axis of rotation. After synchronizing with the cruise ship’s cartwheel motion, he wedged the tug’s bow into the cruise ship’s bulkhead cargo hatch. He prayed that its force field would hold, and fired his aft thrusters at maximum. Asteroid Defense monitored his progress closely, and opted to let him proceed past the Minimum Close Approach Radius (MCAR). As the swelling Earth filled Lerado’s viewport, both ships began to skirt the upper edge of Earth’s exosphere. The two ships left a wake of thin ionized gas as friction heated up their hulls. It was the longest few minutes of Lerado’s life. Finally, Earth began to recede, and Lerado started to breathe again.
“Okay, Control, we’re clear,” he transmitted. “Give me an hour to align her mag-plate. Then you can haul her in.” But first, he thought, I need to change my flight suit.
Author : Steve Smith, Staff Writer
Captain Broahm hadn’t been asleep nearly long enough when he was dumped unceremoniously from his bunk onto the floor. Cursing, he’d barely gotten his bearings before the ship righted itself, tossing him backwards into the bulkhead, sending a blinding flash of lightning through his already aching head.
His left eye clouded, and he wiped at the blood that was pooling there from a fresh gash on his forehead.
“Bugger,” he grumbled, pulling himself upright with help from the cargo nets lining the sleeping quarters.
Staggering out of the still swaying cabin into the hallway, he climbed the ladder onto the bridge and found the first officer white knuckled at the wheel. Half the instrument lights were out or flickering and several of the windows were missing, broken glass scattered across the console and onto the floor.
“Grady, what the hell was that? You hit something?”
The startled first officer turned and stammered “Plane, I think, hit us. It’s out there in the water.” He pointed out the battered port side windows into the darkness. In the distance, lights flickered in and out of view as the waves rocked the ship.
“Any plane hit us like that would be in pieces at the bottom of the ocean by now.” Broahm shouldered open the door to get a clearer view from the deck. Both hands gripping the railing against the rocking of the ship, he could see clearly another vessel hanging just off their port side. Broahm blinked, and rubbed his eyes. The other vessel appeared to be sitting just above the water, the waves sliding harmlessly beneath its hull.
Broahm shook his head, wiping again at the blood trickling into his eye. Maybe he’d taken more of a bang than he’d realized.
“Must be a life raft,” he thought before yelling back into the cabin, “Grady, fetch us a flare and the glasses.”
The first officer appeared in the doorway moments later with a flare gun and a pair of binoculars.
“Sir,” he said, handing the equipment to the Captain.
Broahm took the gear from him, firing the flare into the night sky and scoping the other craft through the glasses as the pyrotechnic turned nighttime into midday.
The other craft sat still, featureless, long and narrow, hovering just above the water. As Broahm searched its length, he lit upon at a figure standing on a platform, partially submerged in the water off the side. It was looking up, watching the flare arc across the sky. Easily as tall as he was, perhaps taller with no visible clothing and a large blunt face split by the thin line of a mouth that wrapped nearly half way around its head. From where it’s ears should have been stared large unblinking eyes. Running down the side of its neck, ribbon like slits undulated as waves washed over them, its body slick and glistening in the artificial daylight.
“Grady, get us the bloody hell out of here.” Broahm yelled back into the cabin without looking.
He felt warmth tracing its way back down his forehead towards his eye, and absently wiped it away, flinging the fluid into the sea. As the red droplets hit the water, he caught a flurry of movement through the glasses. The creature was looking right at him now, lips peeled back revealing rows upon rows of jagged teeth. Broahm’s stomach knotted at the realization that whatever it was, it was smiling.
Author : Duncan Shields, Staff Writer
It’s been said that if you give a room full of monkeys a room full of typewriters, they will eventually type up a Shakespeare play given enough time.
As a philosophical exercise, there is a point to the premise. However, there are a number of factors that make it impossible as a real-world application.
First and foremost, monkeys are mortal and will die after a few short decades.
Second of all, the typewriters themselves will often break under the surprisingly strong hands of the monkeys.
Thirdly, if the monkeys bash on the keys, they will hit the same group of keys over and over again with little variation, ignoring keys on the fringes such as shift, enter, and the space bar.
That’s where my MonkeyTron tm project comes in. I have created supercomputers whose job is to spew randomly generated letters, punctuation, and spaces. By running sixty of these computers concurrently, I have theoretically created this room of monkeys.
They’ve been running for a year.
So far, we have garnered half a poem by Robert Frost, nearly two full pages from the screenplay for The Shining, a full recipe for ‘glass brownies’, the entire lyrical songbook of Avril Lavigne’s career, two paragraphs from an engineering manual, and six nonsense limericks.
One page of Hamlet showed up, gentleman. I have faith that the future looks bright. Too bright.
Ladies and gentlemen of the council, this page of Hamlet that showed up seemed to be ‘corrected’. There were only seven minor changes from the original, but it made the language seem to flow better. This is very worrying.
Worrying because it’s only been a year.
What’s even more alarming is that computer 18 has stopped including words and seems to be focusing entirely on math. It’s spouted out, amongst the gibberish, several of Newton’s laws and half of a Hawking precept.
The gibberish is disappearing, gentlemen. The computers are finding their own areas of expertise and they seem to be closing in on our own level of intelligence.
The fear is that they will start to create original pieces of written art that rivals our own. The chilling implication is that maybe our own pieces of art that echo down through the centuries are not original at all and were merely randomly generated from our own minds.
With the math robot, we’re worried that it may start to come forth with mathematical theories and physical concepts that supersede our own. What happens then? How do we publish these discoveries and who do we credit?
I am coming to you, supreme council, for a decision on whether or not to proceed.
Author : Liz Lafferty
Go to work.
Go to work.
“I don’t know. It’s the worker program jamming up again.” I frowned at the array of code for that particular program. The pattern had changed over time. The wild fluctuations so common to new programs was normal, but since they layered in the worker program, the blips had steadied out into a monotonous up, down, up, down rhythm that had gotten slower and slower.
I scanned through hundreds of worker programs seeing the same results.
The automatons with this program seemed to be in one repetitive loop after another.
“Did you reboot?”
“First thing. It went right in to loop again. I’ve been seeing more and more problems with this schematic. What do you want me to do?”
“Did you try loading the motherly instinct program? Maybe it would do better in a home environment.”
We’d stopped identifying them by name years ago. To us they were drones.
“Let me check the records.” My fingers flittered over the keyboard as I punched in the series of codes, revealing the events for this female automaton’s life cycle. “No, we can’t. That model was programmed not to have children. It was supposed to find joy in the labor force.”
“The entrepreneur program has always been successful. What about an overlay?”
“Well, it’s better than suiciding the model.”
“I hate that term. I’ll shut it down for a few days of rest. See what happens.”
“You’re call, but we’ll probably end up shutting her down anyway. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.”
I went home.
Time to sleep.
I woke up. Made coffee. Went to work.
“I don’t know. It’s the worker program jamming up again.”
“Did you reboot?”
“First thing. It went right in to loop again. I’ve been seeing more and more problems. What do you want me to do?”