Author : Jacqueline Brasfield
I was 18 years old when they’d captured the first howlers.
Mom and I stayed up to see the first footage of them flash across the TV screen on the 11 O’clock news, blurry images of hollow-eyed men and women wearing orange jumpsuits, their arms hanging limply and obediently at their sides. I felt a pang of disappointment. From all her stories I expected them to be fierce, savage, proud creatures struggling and straining at their chains. I expected them to be warriors. They looked no more savage than my science teacher at school. Mom said I shared a connection to them. I didn’t know what she meant.
On the screen, three figures stood proudly at a podium adorned with microphones from various news agencies. My mother spit down at her feet when the camera panned over their faces – two men, one woman, all impeccably groomed. One of the men wore a military uniform decorated with medals, and it was he who spoke to the camera.
“We’ve prepared a small statement regarding the hybrids and then we’ll move to your questions.”
My mother spit again and took a long swallow of gin straight out of the small glass bottled held in her hand. I’d never seen her drink before.
“It is with great pleasure that we can confirm we have successfully located and retrieved all of the hybrids. The last remaining rogue tribes were identified and brought into protective custody for their integration into the United States Military Evolutionary Hybrid Unit. The success of the device used to free these hybrids from their condition continues to prove effective and provide a stability and peace of mind these individuals will not have ever known. All of them have been offered training and assistance and the opportunity to serve this great nation, and we can confirm we have 100% uptake on this offer. The public is safe once again – if not safer. We believe these hybrids will make the finest soldiers in the history of the United States military forces. My colleagues and I will take your questions now, on the understanding we cannot reveal information that is classified.”
Immediately, a flurry of questions came from the mob of journalists off camera. My mother turned off the TV before I could hear any of the replies.
“Why’d you turn it off?”
She sat there in the dark for several long seconds before answering me.
“Because they’re lying, Ben. About everything. All the stories I’ve told you. All of their history. Does any of that suggest to you that they would willingly give in to slavery and bondage? That they would agree to serve those who rape the land, and poison the water and kill the innocent?”
I opened my mouth to speak, to tell her no I did not think they would, but she was quick to interject.
“And do you think they’ve really caught all of them?”
She looked over my shoulder as she said the words, eyes fixed on something behind me. And that something began to move, causing the hairs on the back of my neck to stand up like orderly soldiers.
I turned quickly to look behind and stood frozen at the sight before me. A woman more bone than skin prowling forward on bare feet. Her movements were alien and animalistic and savage. She spat haughty words at me in Russian that I didn’t understand.
I thought her the most beautiful thing I’d seen in my life.
“Meet the resistance Ben,” my mother murmured. “Meet Katja, your mate.”
Author : Chris Deal
It’s the only story the news is talking about today: twenty years since the fall, since the wall came down. My boy asked me if I remembered it, where was I when I heard it had come down. Told him I was right where he was, asking my father what it meant, the wall coming down, the people separating. I told my boy, I told him my dad said it meant we could be together again, undivided by petty differences.
My boy, he said my dad sounded like a smart man.
He was, I told him.
What I didn’t tell him was that I was lying. I wasn’t sitting with my father when the wall came down. I was there. I held a sledgehammer in my young hands and I swung that thing over and over, until my muscles ached of acid and my shirt was soaked with sweat, clinging to me in the cold night.
What I didn’t tell him was that I was on the other side of that wall.
That wall wasn’t to keep people inside, but to keep them out.
What I didn’t tell my boy was my father, he remembered the first wall, way across the ocean, the remnant of another war, long before the last one. One country divided from itself, not one country cut off from the rest of the world. Families separated, not entire cultures. He knew his mother wasn’t born in here, but he never asked where I met her. He never asked where we lived before him. There was the way it was now, the way it was before, but he never cared about anything from then. Him, he had an entire life ahead of him, an entire world to see. He would never have to see his homeland tear itself apart, people of a different color removed from their homes, sent to a land they only knew as stories from their parents, grandparents. The war in our borders was a history lesson for him, not real life. He would never have to kill to preserve what was right.
My boy grew bored of the news, and he started surfing the neural-net.
One day, he may ask more about my father. He may ask about the before. He might ask about the wall that ran the full course of the borders, the guards who patrolled in jeeps with gauss rifles, the camps we sat in before being dumped on the other side, the constant broadcasts from the leader, the man who put an end to heterogeneity and proclaimed through homogeneity we would better ourselves, the man who declared war on the other, who defined that there was an other, the man who became a martyr before the revolution was complete, before I held that hammer and brought down that wall.
When my boy asks, I’ll tell him. For now, though, he can keep on as he is.
I’ll remember for him.
Author : Patricia Stewart, Staff Writer
The radiation levels following the Great Holy War of the twenty third century made living on the surface of the Earth impossible. Consequently, humanity moved underground. After millennia of self-sufficient, artificial environments, humanity lost all ties to the surface. Eventually, the sum on the “known universe” consisted of 50,000 humans, living in 800 cubic miles of subterranean rock. The very existence of the sun and moon, of the land and sea, of the sky and horizon, were all forgotten. Nothing else existed. That is, until an urban Expansion Project penetrated into the unknown.
“Okay, okay,” bellowed the governor as he entered the meeting chamber. “What’s so damn urgent that it became necessary to interrupt my sleep cycle?”
“I’m sorry, Governor,” replied the Secretary of Construction, “but there was an ‘incident’ in one of the mine shafts.”
“An Incident! What kind of incident?”
“Well, sir, as you know, urban expansion projects are typically limited to the X-Y plane, where the ambient rock temperature is between 70 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. However, the Limestone Expansion Project is moving in the positive-Z direction, where the rock temperatures are generally lower. Although expanding in this direction will have higher recurring cost, the lower construction costs tunneling through the softer limestone are too significant to ignore.” The Secretary sensed that the governor was losing patience, so he cut to the chase. “Anyway, sir, late yesterday, the exploratory mine shaft broke into an extremely large chamber.”
The governor snapped to attention. “What’s that you say? A chamber?” A wave of spontaneous thoughts raced though his mind. Could there be other life forms in the universe? What would that mean to their society? Chaos, unrest, revolt, the end of civilization? This could be very bad news indeed. “Was the chamber natural of artificial?”
“Unknown, sir. It had its own light source. Initially, the light source was hundreds of times brighter than anything we have in the City. However, after half a cycle, it became significantly darker. We were able to send a team through the shaft. They say there is a large semicircular light on the ceiling and thousands of diamond lights surrounding it. They say they cannot see the walls. They estimate that the chamber is hundreds of miles in diameter.”
“That’s ridiculous. No chamber can be that large. What do your engineers say?”
“They are at a loss, sir. But, there are a few eccentric scientists that claim that the universe physically ends several miles above our heads. These scientists say that the Earth is just a solid spherical ball with nothing beyond.”
“That’s the stupidest idea I ever heard. The rock extends forever in all directions. Everybody knows that.”
“Of course, sir. But there are also crackpots who say that man once lived on that spherical surface, but was banished to the ‘underworld’ because of a great sin.”
“Ignore my earlier statement. Now, that is the stupidest idea I ever heard. How can anyone live on a sphere? They’d fall off. No, I suspect that the positive-Z direction contains evil beings. They probably blind their prey with the bright light, and then attack them. I wouldn’t be surprised if they eat their victims while they’re still alive. Recall your men immediately. We must seal the shaft before it is too late. In the morning, I’ll meet with the full Senate. We must pass a law that forbids expansion in the positive-Z direction. And for now, we must all pray that the gods will forgive our blasphemous behavior, lest we all perish.”
Author : Duncan Shields, Staff Writer
The way my race has sex has made me a natural choice for the role of diplomat, lawyer and event organizer at an interplanetary level.
Our planet adapted to overcrowding by creating new sexes. We have seventeen now. It seems to be holding steady there.
Myself, I’m a tertiary bi-valve post-pubescent fifth-stage spawning facilitator. I’m bright green and quite tall for my age.
I’m needed in the home stretch of our three-day mating rituals. By using what’s called the ‘augmented reacharound’, I help fertilize the egg clusters sprouting out of the backs of the three gene-imprinting tri-spigot chain producers before the eggs are mixed in the chest cavity of a seconday monovalve pre-pubescent first-stage fertilization overseer and then deposited into the senile no-valve seventeenth-stage sacrificial carrier.
That’s just the last five hours of the three-day ordeal.
The procedure is exhausting. We all need to be awake for the full three days of the sex. There’s a two-day recovery period as well.
The timetable juggling that needs to take place to get sixteen schedules cleared and a will and last rites performed the carrier is a feat of patience and organization. Our social skills are awe-inspiring to other races. We have this ability to bring harmony to all conversations and smooth out conflicts. We can help bridge an understanding between the most different sets of personalities.
By comparison, the idea of organizing a press conference for a dignitary or memorizing some laws seems easy.
I’ve found a place here on this planet called Earth. While I can’t produce children, I do have the ability as a tertiary bi-valve to mate with this planet’s populace. That’s a rare thing in my travels. The Earthlings are ready for sex all-year round, much like my own race. Their unions only last a few hours, though.
The lack of complexity is refreshing to me. I’m sure in time it will become boring but my tour at the UN should be over before then. Right now, there is a young male and an older female at the end of bar. They are both looking at me, both unaware of each other’s interest in me. I must cut a fine figure with my green skin and Armani suit.
I’ll see what I can faciliate. The three of us should be getting to know each other much better within the next three or four hours.
Author : Roi R. Czechvala: Staff Writer
The Crimson Dawn hung in geosynch above the besieged planet. Far out of reach of the meager defenses the primitive populous threw at them.
“Skipper, another salvo is being launched.”
Captain Dimitri Sardukar gave a bored sigh; “Viewer.” The bridge of the ship dissolved and the captain and crew seemed to hang in empty space. Even after years as a staff officer, the sudden switch to VR still unnerved him.
He watched as a seven missile volley rose from the planets surface. He watched as the stages of the chemical rockets fell away. He watched as the impotent atomic warheads spent their energy fruitlessly against the ships absorbing Tesla Field.
“Enough is enough. Ensign contact fleet. We are dropping. These savages need to know with whom they are dealing with.”
Klaxons blared throughout the ship. Armoured marines scrambled for the lifter ships. The captain himself took personal command of a lifter, and was the first to ground on the surface of the planet they had dubbed Circe.
The assault ships formed a perimeter around a massive stone complex. A walled palace. Stunned guards at the gates watched in awe as the huge marines emerged. The awe soon resolved itself into anger. They opened fire as the marines approached…
Dimitri joined his retinue of eleven men in raucous laughter as bullets impacted armour and fell to the ground as harmless lumps of jacketed lead.
“Open fire,” Dimitri ordered, growing tired of the futile display.
The detachment of guards was reduced to shapeless mounds of burned flesh under the searing blast of plasma fire. The men stormed unopposed into the massive building, followed by their swaggering commander.
The interior was one massive chamber carved from a single piece of a marble like stone. The walls shimmered with iridescent colours. In the centre of the hall upon a raised dais a huge throne stood. It was occupied by a diminutive figure, almost human in a vaguely elfin way. At the base of the platform a contingent of similar creatures stood unarmed.
“There will be no need for your crude weapons.” The diminutive being waved a careless hand and the marines were quickly disarmed by his personal guard. “Nor your armour,” just as quickly the men were denuded. “Allow me to introduce myself. I am Viceroy Creed. Welcome to…,” he smiled disarmingly, “Circe.”
Stunned to immobility the men stood in rigid fear.
Outraged, Captain Dimitri Ulyov Sardukar turned on his minute tormentor, his face flushed with rage. “I command…”
“You command nothing,” the alien leader snapped viciously.
“I have ten ships…three thousand marines, trained killers ready….”
“There are no ships, there are no marines. Not for much longer anyway…,” he quietly informed the captain.
With a dismissive wave of his hand, Creed turned to his coterie. “Amusing aren’t they? Their worlds will make a unique addition to the Empire.”
“Make them comfortable for the time being. Tell the kitchen there will be twelve for dinner.”
He turned and faced the deflated Fleet Captain. “Remind the chef, I like mine rare.” He graced the men with a quick winsome smile. Rows of pointed teeth flashed wickedly in the waning light. The Viceroy turned and walked lightly from the room.