Author : Patricia Stewart, Staff Writer
The alarm of the Olympia Undae Penitentiary snapped warden Jacobs from a deep sleep. He hurried down to the den to access his computer terminal, only to be greeted by a dozen escaped convicts. Jacobs recognized them as members of the Tharsis gang, a group of third and fourth generation settlers known for their sadistic brutality. He glanced at his phaser rifle above the mantel.
“Don’t even think about it Warden,” growled one of the prisoners. “As you can see, we have weapons. Your guards in the armory insisted that we help ourselves. Well, that’s what they would have said if they were alive.” The prisoners broke into laughter.
“You can’t escape,” argued Jacobs. “There’s no place on Mars that you can hide. Surrender now, before things escalate out of control.”
“It’s already too late, Warden. Besides, we don’t plan to stay on Mars. That’s why we came here. You’re going to take us to your ship in orbit, and then to the asteroid belt. We have a standing invitation to join the pirates.”
“I have no intention to take you anywhere. I’ll die first.”
Just then, three convicts marched down the steps dragging the warden’s wife and two children. “I never understood,” stated the lead convict, “why there is a policy to house the warden’s family on prison property, but I’m not complaining. Now, take us to your shuttle.”
Reluctantly, Jacobs lead them to the attached hanger. The shuttle was only designed to hold twelve, but they all crammed in. Jacobs was glad to see that his wife and children were placed in seats. Jacobs sat at the pilot station. He did not delude himself. He knew that it was unlikely that he or his family would survive. If they weren’t shot down by security, they would certainly be killed when they reached the asteroid belt. As he programmed the shuttle for lift off, he committed to a desperate plan.
The lead convict grabbed the radio. “This is the Warden’s shuttle; we have four hostages on board. Stand down, or we’ll start executing the children.” The hanger doors opened and the shuttle lifted off. It was not confronted. The shuttle climbed through the thin Martian atmosphere, and headed toward the harbor in orbit. At an elevation of 100,000 meters, the computer shut down the main engine. The shuttle leveled out and began to fall toward the red Martian surface.
“He’s trying to kill us all,” yelled one of the convicts.
“No, I swear,” pleaded the warden. “Not with my family on board. I don’t know what happened. I can restart the engine as soon as it cools down to 2000K.” When the shuttle dropped to 20,000 meters, Jacobs restarted the engine and pulled back hard on the controls. As he watched the accelerometer climb to 7g’s he strained to keep from passing out. When he leveled the shuttle at 50,000 meters, the convicts were motionless on the deck. His wife and children were unconscious, but still breathing. He activated the radio, “Warden to AUP, the situation is under control. I’m returning to base. Have medical teams standing by.”
The warden helped his family off the shuttle; the children were crying. Armed security guards rushed toward the shuttle. “That won’t be necessary Sergeant. They’re all dead.”
“Simple physiology. My family and I were born on Earth. We’ve only been on Mars for a few months. Those guys are third generation Marsers. They’ve lived at 0.4g all their lives. When I pulled 7g’s on the shuttle, it felt like 17g’s to them. Their weakened bodies couldn’t take it.”
Author : Duncan Shields, Staff Writer
On my 67th birthday, my research finally reached fruition and I invented a portable matter transporter. By wearing it, I could transport anywhere in the world at will.
If I grabbed someone, that person came with me.
I didn’t need to know where I was going, I didn’t need to have been there before, and I never ended up in walls. It was magical.
Most people would have robbed banks or spied on girls. I was past getting my thrills that way and I had invested wisely. I had all the money I needed. I’m not a greedy person.
What really got to me, though, was intolerance. I think intolerance exists mostly because people don’t speak each other’s language and don’t experience other cultures enough. To me, intolerance is the cause of wars. It lets one group think that they are better than another group.
What can one man do? I’ll tell you.
I call it the shuffle.
I appear, grab the wrists of the people nearest to me, and teleport to a different country.
I’m famous and feared. I’m a celebrity and a boogeyman all in one. When I appear in public squares, some people flock to me and some people run screaming. Most people look around to see what all the noise is about. Those are the ones I usually end up grabbing.
I try not to grab children or old people but I can’t always be choosy. Some countries have orders to shoot me on sight.
From Nepal to Belize. From Cancun to Switzerland. From Nigeria to Japan. From Canada to Ecuador. From Iran to Korea. From China to Greenland.
I never sleep in the same place twice. I never eat in the same place twice. I appear in a kitchen, grab some food, and bail to a safe place to eat. When I get tired, I go to a safe place for sleep. A forgotten warehouse, perhaps, or the middle of a warm forest with no predators. Then it’s back to work.
I am a super transient. I am the earth’s blender.
2 people per jump, 2 jumps per minute, 240 people transported per hour, average 3360 people give or take a few in an average fourteen-hour day, works out to over a million people ‘shuffled’ per year. Exactly 1,226, 400 going by that math but sometimes it’s more and sometimes it’s less. To be honest, I’ve long since stopped counting.
I’ve been doing it for five years now. There have been close calls but I haven’t been stopped yet. Doing it day in, day out for as long as I have, I’ve probably mixed up less than a per cent of the Earth but my movement is growing. Those that I have displaced voice their displeasure or glee loudly to the world.
People are talking. I have dropped off letters to every single major media corporation there is. They know what I’m trying to do. I believe in complete transparency.
I’m hoping that there are others like me and that they will join the cause. I want to shake this planet up. Erase it by mixing it. I want all the colours on Earth’s racial palette to be smeared together into one unintelligible human colour.
I realize that my eventual goal will never be realized but I want to see my actions have an effect, even if it’s uniting the human race against me.
Jump. Grab. Jump. Grab. Jump.
Author : John Williams
Gas and Sag had clear orders to destroy all life on the planet. Their leader, The Gnik, was concerned that the violence portrayed on its radio and television was setting a very bad example to the rest of the Universe. The exact manner of destruction was left to them. Their Gnik failed to see the irony of destroying a planet because of its output of violent transmissions.
“During the five-year trip from the planet htrae in Proxima Centauri, you’ll have ample time to agree on the optimum method,” instructed The Gink. On htrae, it was policy to make decisions at the lowest practical level.
Of course, they didn‘t agree: If Gas said fire then Sag said water.
The arguments went back and forth. Their leader, The Gnik, was beginning to think it had been a mistake to send a couple on this mission. Perhaps, Professor Stranglelove was correct when he or she advocated the elimination of one gender as a means to promote galactic harmony and to make the monarch’s life easier.
It was rumoured that the good professor had taken the precaution to adapt his own or her own body to qualify for either gender – a sacrifice willingly made in the name of science.
“Can’t I use my atomic blaster?” implored Sag as she reached for the holster on her hip.
“What about my headaches? It’s bound to make a terrible noise.”
“If you really loved me, then you’ll do it my way,” countered Sag. Gas checked to see what brain his partner was using.
Sag drew herself up to her full 2ft 6inches and turned her purple faces to her silent partner.
“I’m older so I should decide.” Her mouths forming distinct sulks.
“But you decided last time. It must be my turn.”
Their attention was caught by a message from mission control asking their position.
“Are we there yet?” asked Sag.
“E.T.A. in five minutes,” sighed Gas and vowed to save the most beautiful planet in the cosmos. He looked aghast at the temperature sensing device, the planet must be the coldest inhabited one in the known universe. A plan was beginning to form in his thinking head.
“So what are we going to do?”
All the time, Gas was pondering on the irony of destroying a planet because it was too violent. Of course, he knew that countless envoys had been sent to warn the leaders of the Earthmen. He had seen the record of how they had been cruelly treated, their bodies bombarded with radiation, and then dissected. Gas switched off his feeling head and engaged his other brain. A light illuminated the dark interior of the flying saucer as he came to the realization of how to save the blue planet.
“We’ll toss a coin. Heads or tails?” he said casually.
Sag agreed and called tails.
The coin landed heads side up.
“Shit!” yelled Sag, “ I can never win an argument with you. “ She glared down at the Sirian Dollar.
Gas smiled up at her, “I thought we may introduce a little carbon dioxide into their atmosphere just to warm it up a bit. Then, it would make an ideal holiday destination.”
Sag allowed smiles to soften her mouths.
Gas quickly picked up the double-headed coin and began releasing the stored carbon dioxide they had exhaled during their voyage, venting it into the atmosphere of the blue planet. Their ship lurched upward and Gas struggled to right the craft but Sag wrenched the controls from his grasp.
Observers saw the craft stall and crash into a field on the outskirts of Copenhagen. The ship’s video log, after examination, was hurried to climate change conference. Gas and Sag, still engaged in a furious argument, were taken away for counselling and an afternoon in a hot tub.
Author : D. Wang
His wings were polyaramid leather woven over carbon bones and monofilament tendon, his gaze the piercing thousand-yard stare of a man who could see through stone, his talons X-ray lasers so powerful their waste heat violated Second Kyoto with every shot. In his time, he’d been God’s own fury and brave men had worn charms lest he notice they still lived. Now he queued up outside Lane’s placement office with the amputees and the lepers.
“Name?” Lane asked.
“First, or last?”
“I guess if the last name is the family name then that’d be Azrael, so—”
“First, then. Here you are. Two years in the western theatre, retired this January?”
“Is that Earth time?”
“What else, Jovian Separatist Daylight-Savings?”
“We’re on Mars, I thought—”
Lane guffawed like a man who hadn’t laughed in too long. “Earth Force runs on Earth time, son. Martian! That’s a good one. Sit down, I’ll be right back.” He stomped down the hall until he found a small child huddled under a chair. Then he knelt down, and bellowed, “You there, boy! See that sign?”
The child whispered, “Cannot read, sir.”
Lane’s voice softened. “It says, ‘ECM strictly prohibited in waiting rooms.’ Aww, I’m not mad. I’ve got one like you at home. Here, have a sucker. You stay offline and there’ll be another in my office. Deal?” He let the boy stare at his pinky a moment, then grunted and stumped back.
“Where was I? Right, Martian time. That’s a good one. You want to be a comedian, son?”
“I thought, something leveraging my talents…” Azrael flexed his cannon. “Surely someone must want something done about someplace?”
“Private work?” Lane sucked his teeth. “You’re almost three years off the line, though. What did you do in the service?”
“Search and destroy, recon, anti-material, harassment, close air support. They were going to tap me for assassinations and deep insertions, real behind-the-lines work, but I didn’t fit the psych profile.”
“Trouble with independent operations?”
“Oh, no! I’m fully autonomic. Used to be a child molester, see. Still am, though since the operation I’ve been lacking in the wherewithal, if you take my meaning. Point being, I’m not one of those silly AI jobs that sees a kid bringing his da the RPG and starts throwing TypeError exceptions.”
“Ah. Well, no, I suppose you wouldn’t be.” Lane rubbed his eyes, good cheer gone again. “Well, Azrael, I don’t recommend this often, because it’s not an easy job, or a glamorous one, but it needs doing and I think you’ve got what it takes.” Lane motioned Azrael close and whispered, “Sheep herding.”
“Sheep herding.” Lane gestured expansively. “Just you, ten thousand tonnes of mutton, and the great wide plains of Australia. Some can’t take the loneliness, just go crazy, but that’s not a problem for you, eh?”
“You can trust me. I’m as stable as anything. Rest of my squadron needed counselling, not that there’s anything wrong with that, but—”
“It’s settled. Sheep herding. Next!”
Author : Roi R. Czechvala, Staff Writer
I didn’t want to think about it. Just do it. Get it over with. It’s a mission like any other. You can do it man.
With a snap, I secured the gloves over my hands. They seemed such flimsy protection. I quickly pulled the mask over my face, but the horrid stench still came through. I dry heaved a few times and barely managed to control my queasiness. You’d think they’d have ‘bots that could do this.
“I’m going in,” I yelled to my partner. My voice was strong and steady, hardly reflecting my true feelings. I stopped momentarily while memories of past missions flashed through my mind.
I was back on Mars. We were flying across the red desert sands, the skiffs only inches above the blowing waste. The battalion had been reduced to almost company force. A freak sandstorm had destroyed most of our transports, grounding most of the batt, but we had to press on. The Asiatics were at division strength.
It was a blood bath. Bodies everywhere. Well, parts of bodies anyway. But they weren’t ours. The sandstorm had left the slopes in a worse situation than it had us. We laid into them with unmatched ferocity. The carnage was unimaginable.
On Venus we not only had the gooks to worry about, but the planet itself was against us. There were the aptly named dragons, which concealed two bladders full of harmless fluids within their bellies. Harmless that is, until they were expelled in unison and made contact with the air. I watched as my platoon was roasted alive and eaten.
There were carnivorous plants. True Venus flytraps that lured men to their deaths. I have seen so much death and destruction, but nothing had prepared me for this. I crossed myself and said a quick Hail Mary.
“I’m going in,” I repeated in a vain attempt to steel my nerves.
“Oh for the love of Pete, Charles, stop being such a baby. It’s just a diaper.”