Ticket to Paradise

Author : Clint Wilson, Staff Writer

Two-hundred and twenty years had finally passed. We had reached our destination. From our sleep tubes we could see the first images of the beautiful green planet on our displays. But I did not care about any of it.

Then as our ship descended through the light wispy clouds we were shown the first views of the surface close up; wonderful lush forests and meandering green rivers flowing from one marshland to the next. Rolling hills the colour of emeralds glowed in the distance. Yet still I did not care.

We were all still mostly paralyzed by the stasis drugs and unable to communicate with one another. But I wanted to converse with no one, and if my guess was right, no one would want to talk to me either. The mere thought of it was almost unbearable. Even though I could finally open my eyes the only other thing that worked right now was the thing that had always worked.

Finally we touched down in a lush green meadow and I began to feel a tingling in my extremities as my physical mobility was at long last returned to me. It would be some hours before I would be able to exit the tube, but soon I was at least able to key the console.

Just as I had feared, the malfunction had not been isolated to my chamber alone. I quickly deduced that sixty-five of the ninety-eight of us were dead. Not surprising all things considered. But how had they been so lucky when, pray as I might, I had not been able to wish death upon myself all this time.

After several hours I slowly dragged my still-numb body from the stasis tube. I noticed a couple others doing the same in another part of the chamber. I did not look at them or greet them, and they paid the same respect toward me. I was pretty sure that they had the same destination and ultimate goal in mind.

I didn’t care that we were mankind’s first explorers to another star system, or that the new world outside was more beautiful than any description of Eden. All I wanted to do was to get to sick bay and the cabinet with the suicide pills.

We were finally here, in an extra solar paradise, but the malfunction that had occurred in the chemical mixer over two centuries ago, paralyzing our bodies and our bodies alone, was to blame for our current state.

Our minds, our poor tortured minds had stayed alert all this time, trapped behind cemented eyelids. And all we had been able to do for the entire horrible journey was to think, and then think, think and think some more. More thinking than anyone could ever want in a dozen lifetimes.

I reached sick bay first but there were other tortured souls shuffling in behind me. We were finally free to take our own lives. We were finally free from the forever trap.

Yes we had arrived in paradise at last, and we were completely insane.


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Hostage Situation

Author : Clint Wilson, Staff Writer

The situation was bad; twenty-nine hostages, mostly women and children, and these guys were a whole new breed of terrorist. Similar instances as this had already ended horribly when any type of extraction was attempted. They were usually wired up heavily and vibrating on hair triggers, quite prepared to take themselves out along with everything around them at the first sign of trouble.

The Russian scientist entered the command center with his silver briefcase. An underling leaned over to his superior and whispered, “I don’t trust this Russian.”

“Never you mind. Besides, what other option do we have?”

The commander crossed the floor, hand extended in friendship. “Doctor Volstok, welcome. I expect you’ve already been briefed.”

“Da, my bugs are in position outside of the bunker. Tell me where I can set up and we’ll go in for a closer look.”

Inside the stronghold the prisoners huddled together shivering and crying on the dirty floor. Eight armed guards stood around them swatting at flies when suddenly a handful of new insects entered the room.

Back at the command center the Russian scientist manipulated the controls inside his open briefcase. “As you can see on the display gentlemen, normally this situation would be pretty much hopeless.” They could all see, through the tiny camera lenses of the robotic mayflies’ eyes, the eight terrorists with their plasma rifles and their wired vests packed with enough C9 to make a crater the size of Damascus. “Now that we have visual conformation through the mayflies, my mosquitos are in position.” He looked back to the commander. “Are you going to follow protocol and give them their final warning?”

As much as he hated to, thinking, there was no way these insane bastards would ever pay them the same courtesy, he opened the hostage negotiation comlink.

In the bunker the wall screen lit up with the commander’s brown face. The lead terrorist pointed his rifle at the screen. “Have you met all of our demands?”

“No reverend Smith. In fact I am only following protocol as laid out by the Canadian Convention of 2070. This is your final warning. Release the hostages immediately or you will be neutralized.”

The former Baptist minister and his cohorts broke out in a chorus of laughter. Smith held up his vest trigger. “Empty threats when I’m holding the magic button!”

“I’ll take that as a no then.” He pointed at Doctor Volstok, a signal to proceed.

The Russian keyed his console. Suddenly eight tiny androids built to look and act like mosquitos dropped from the ceiling and landed on the necks of the terrorists. Before a single one could react, they all dropped to the floor dead.

“Good job Doctor.” The Syrian general on the wall screen then addressed the frightened Muslims on the floor. “Please remain calm. Your captors have been neutralized. An extraction team will be there in minutes to assist you. Praise Allah you’re all safe.”


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Drunken Paper Dolls

Author : Clint Wilson, Staff Writer

Well… here goes nothing. You’d think that when inventing a time machine I’d try it out on a few test subjects first. But just because I’m one of the smartest people I’ve ever met doesn’t mean I’m the wisest. Besides… I’ve been drinking pinot noir… lots of it.

I check the parameters one last time. Yup, the beam is zeroed in on me. No turning back now. Here we go. Engage accelerator… big sip of wine… there’s the hum of the reactor.

Ah, what’s to worry about? I’m only jumping a measly minute. No chance of paradox there… no one here but us chickens. Heh heh. “Make it so Number One!” My inebriated state almost causes me to miss the button, but I manage to hit it with my thumb.

I am surprised by a green flash. The clock had just clicked to 12:36… and there it remains. “What the…?” I wiggle the wires on the back of the beam dispenser. I shake the monitor array. Another sip of wine, this one smaller. Hmmm, doesn’t seem to be anything amiss here. Finally in frustration I pound the keyboard with my fist, causing the phrase, $%^&tybhuijnoo9876 to appear… followed by the machine’s response of, “Invalid Command”.

Then the clock clicks to 12:37, and there is another green flash. And I’m suddenly beside myself… literally.

“Oh what the mother hell?” I ask the exact copy of myself.

My other self answers, “Ha, I didn’t think it worked at first… but this, this is an entirely unexpected result!” Then he raises an identical wine glass and takes a swig.

Right away both of us eye each other, knowing exactly what the other is thinking. Then in unison we say, “Great way to make wine!” We clink our identical glasses, followed by large simultaneous guzzles.

Then the clock clicks to 12:38 and another one of us appears. “Oh shit,” exclaim the first two of us. I fill our glasses from the nearby bottle but the third me doesn’t require it yet as his glass is still nearly full.

He takes a long swallow and then looks at the two of me. “Anyone have any idea of how we got stuck in this perpetual loop?” The other two of us look at each other confused and then shake our heads.

12:39, another green flash. The fourth me appears confused. At least his glass is full. My bottle is getting low. Remembering my store in the other room I excuse myself, but by the time I return with a couple new bottles there are six of us. The others are mumbling drunkenly… but making no progress that I can discern.

We might have eventually solved our plight but then the crazy one, number fifteen or sixteen I think, suddenly does something highly unexpected. He picks up the beam dispenser and hurls it across the lab, smashing our life’s work to bits on the floor. “What are you doing?!?” the other twenty-five of us scream in unison.

“Just wait,” he says, holding out his hands. “Just wait a minute!”

The clock clicks to 1:02, another green flash, and another stumbling, mumbling wino, too smart for his own good, appears in the lab. “Damn,” says the destroyer of our machine. “I thought that would work.”

Everyone else groans. “Wait!” says the radical. “I have another idea.” We all look at him hopeful yet doubtful. “If we kill the original it has to stop repeating!”

I swallow hard amongst the unsure mumbles of my other selves and exclaim, “Yeah but how are we going to find him now?”

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Sentence Option B

Author : Clint Wilson, Staff Writer

“Well let’s see now Mr. Williams, you have your battery charged for over 100,000 hours of usage, plus the suit’s solar absorbers are in good order. Your spots will provide ample light should you land somewhere where it’s night. Of course on your right forearm is your matter analysis spectrometer so you can tell what things will be poisonous or edible. Your medi-pack is fully stocked and of course functional.”

“And my suicide pill?”

The little man in the white lab suit patted the prisoner’s breast pocket. “Don’t you worry young man, we wouldn’t let you go without that. Just because you’re a mass murderer, we’re not inhumane!”

“I told you I’m innocent.”

“Sure Mr. Williams, of course you are.” With a nod toward the two huge guards the test subject was escorted toward and then shoved roughly into the chamber. There was a hiss of steam as the heavy door bolts slid into place.

Suddenly Williams was terrified. “Wait, don’t do it yet… I’ve changed my mind!”

The little man laughed, as did the giant guards. “Changed your mind? You want lethal injection instead of becoming a hero to your race? Please Mr. Williams. The contract is signed, so it doesn’t matter anyway.”

Williams’s shoulders slumped in resignation. “So, how long will I be able to talk to you?”

“After you land the wormhole starts to close almost immediately. We probably have less than a minute, so I need you to describe everything to me as quickly as possible.”

“Then that’ll be it? I’m on my own after that?”

“Yes Mr. Williams. You’ll be free to live your life however you must, wherever in the universe you are.”

Inside the chamber the prisoner was breathing hard and sweating bullets.

The little man typed in a command at his console and there was a hum as the fractal probe began to pick through the trillions of miniscule holes in the froth of the space-time continuum. The program was quick, finding hundreds of distant planets every second, casting aside rejected discoveries as it went.

Too hot, too cold, too much gravity, no magnetic field, inadequate atmosphere, and on it went. Suddenly there was a soft chime. The analysis came up on the display. “Ah it looks like we have our winner; quite nice indeed. Goodbye and good luck Mr. Williams.” He typed in the launch code.

Williams realized that his eyes had been closed. Suddenly he felt a cool breeze on his face and so he hazarded a small glance. In a second his eyes were wide open and his mouth was hanging agape.

“Mr. Williams!” The voice was crackling in his earpiece. “What do you see?”

He answered dreamily. “Tell me again why you can’t find this place a second time?”

“We don’t have time for that. Please, tell me what you see!”

“Not until you tell me why no one else will ever come here.”

“Oh for god sake… because wormholes are countless and always on the move. Trying to find you after this would be like trying to find a microscopic needle in a cosmic haystack. Now tell me what you see!”

Again he answered dreamily. “I’m glad nobody else will ever come here… we’d just ruin this place.”

“Mr. Williams… we’re almost out of time!”

“Wrong. I’ve got all the time in this world.”

He tore out the earpiece and began to walk toward the greenest mountains he’d ever seen. He wanted to drink from the azure pools beneath those mile high waterfalls. Above him a pink and red ringed planet hung between two warm yellow suns.


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The Cord

Author : Clint Wilson, Staff Writer

I have been obsessed with The Cord all my life.

A full century before my birth, scientists detected the tip of the strange tendril undulating and probing at the outer edge of our oort cloud. As far as anyone knew it was without end, as we tracked its incredible length with our best telescopes, lighting it with lasers along the way. It ran for light-years through our galaxy; a continuous silvery strand, only some fifteen meters in diameter, made from unknown material, seemingly reaching out to us. Why here? Where might it lead us? Who presented this strange specimen? Could this possibly be some key to the unaccounted for mass of our universe?

The biggest discovery thus far has come from the famed Warden’s Ring. Named after an early explorer who fashioned a small ring-shaped machine around the circumference of The Cord in order to measure its uniformity of girth over a substantial distance. But then as the device was activated, something incredible and inexplicable happened. Instead of trundling forward at its preprogrammed crawl of less than twenty thousand kilometers per hour, the ring suddenly accelerated along The Cord with incredible force, and disappeared from all sensors in a matter of seconds. At last transmission Warden’s Ring had been approaching .09 of light speed and was still accelerating exponentially.

Like all of the other exploratory ring machines sent since, it has never come back.

Over a thousand tests have taken place now. Many living samples including lichens, plants, fungi and animals, have been sent off on their one-way journeys aboard bigger and better ring-shaped vessels, wrapped around their mysterious rail, pushing off into oblivion.

Advances in tracking these test machines and retrieving data from onboard cameras before they completely accelerate beyond our perception have enabled us to ascertain that, for as far as we know, every single living thing thus far studied, survives unscathed. The Cord acts not only as an accelerator, but also seems to eradicate the effects of inertia on its passengers. In my humble opinion, it is a purposely-designed transporter specifically built for interstellar travel.

But I will find out soon enough. My companions and I have supplies and life-support enough for a decade. After that, who knows? Will The Cord somehow keep us alive? No one can say for certain, but for right now I feel safe.

The engines of our vessel begin to hum as their charge builds up. What will we find? I have asked this question ten thousand times in my head. The people of Earth postulate many things. Mainly I don’t listen. I am certain with all my heart that The Cord is not the end of some cosmic fishing line, as some have hypothesized, waiting to reel us in for dinner. Ridiculous!

I instead dwell on the positive, declaring officially that 186,000 miles per second is not the universal speed limit… only the posted one. And I know deep down in my soul that something wonderful is about to happen. Although we have ten years worth of supplies, I somehow doubt we will need to rely on these stores for even a single day. I truly believe that some far-off intelligence has sent us an invitation, like an open welcoming hand, and all we have to do is take hold, so they can draw us toward their wonderful corner of the galaxy and introduce us to the secrets of the universe.

The engines push us forward and as the stars suddenly stretch out into thin laser-beam lines, I continue to daydream with a big grin on my face.


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