Author : J.R. Blackwell, Staff Writer
Jack hated the Minotaur. Ever since he’d gotten off the silver bus to basic training at White Hook, the Minotaur had picked on him. At the Imperial recruitment office, Jack was told that he had some of the highest scores on physical, mental and social tests of any new recruit. The Minotaur, Jacks superior officer, was in charge of his group of trainees. Jack wasn’t used to doing poorly, but at White Hook, he always came last.
The Minotaur picked apart Jack’s bunk, dumping his things on the floor. The Minotaur ordered Jack to take double shifts guarding the barracks. Jack’s shooting wasn’t good enough, even when other recruits, whose scores were lower than his, were getting pats on the back by the cloven-hoofed bully. When they were sparring, Jack’s stance was never good enough, his bones were always broken first. Jack knew he looked like the worst in his group of recruits, the most likely to wash out.
When Jack was picked again to lug around the gear, after two nights of no sleep, he decided he couldn’t be last again. He ran as hard as his body would let him. This time, he would win. Even after black spots appeared in front of his vision and his chest and legs were crying with pain. He ran until he collapsed.
When Jack woke up in the infirmary, there was a silver locket around his neck. Inside there was a picture of a little girl, surrounded by a flurry of snow. Her dusty brown hair swirled around her face. She was laughing. Alone in the infirmary for two days, Jack would look at the girl, the only beautiful thing in this awful place.
When he got back to the barracks others tried to take it from him. He never showed it to anyone, but somehow everyone seemed knew he had it. People offered him food for the locket, then money and then, they threatened him. The locket was the only thing that really belonged to him, and Jack swore never to let anyone take it from him. He found, from multiple fights, that he was stronger than most of the guys from carrying the heaviest packs, he could fight better, he could take a beating better.
At graduation, the Minotaur asked if he still had the locket. When Jack showed it to him, the Minotaur pulled out a locket of his own, and opened it. Inside was a picture of the Emperor.
“When I was in basic, I was pushed harder. My superior gave me this locket after beating the piss out of me. After I graduated, he told me he had given it to me because he thought I might be worthy to guard the Emperor with my life. I spent twenty years in the royal guard and longer here, training young people to protect the Empire.”
“But this isn’t the Emperor. This is just a little girl.”
The Minotaur cut him off. ” You’re right, it’s not the Emperor. It’s his daughter, the future Empress.”
“No offense Sir, but I thought you hated me.”
“I knew you were special about you the moment you came out of the bus. I want you to go to the planet Crey where the royal guard is trained. You may die there. It will be harder than what you went though here, more challenging. You’ll have the honor of being changed for your duty, new genetics, cybernetic enhancements.”
“I might come out a minotaur?”
“Whatever your Empire needs, that’s what you’ll be. Are you prepared?”
“Sir, I’m ready for anything.”
Author : J.R. Blackwell, Staff Writer
Wzn Izfzuv Tells You How To Live Your Life
This rotation, when I tell you how to live your life, we meet two Newflyers ““ newly infatuated individuals high on emotion. Let’s fly right in, shall we?
I’ve been dating most wonderful Hive mind, sixty sexy individual consciousnesses in four amazing bodies. We’ve been together for about eight rotations and it’s brilliant. They are all so beautiful and talented ““ I know I sound like I’m Newflying here ““ but it’s true.
Whenever we engage in sexual contact, they let me merge a little with the whole. Although it’s only through a skin and wire port even the half merge is amazing. I really want to merge with them fully. I am totally willing to give up my body and I’m excited about being part of the Hive.
However, every time I bring up a true merging, they change the subject. I’m really afraid of scaring them away. Please help!
-Wild for the Hive
Trust the Hive darling. Hive minds can be really wonderful seductive things, all that community, all that acceptance and understanding and sense of belonging. But the thing is, before someone joins, the Hive has to understand that person is just right for them. A wonderful lover does not always make a good addition to the Hive!
My suggestion ““ if you want to convince them that you will be good for the Hive, show them how patient you are, show them how understanding you can be that they want to take the time to get to know you. Also, get that merging out of a sexual context! Invite them to merge with you when all of you have your clothes on. Let them get a sense for you when your mind is calm. Remember, a Hive mind isn’t just a cumulative consciousness ““ it’s also hard work!
My personal companion appliance has become moody, arrogant and cold. When I bought him, he was cuddly and attentive. He used to make me romantic meals and read to me ““ but now he hardly looks at me! The only time he even gives me a second glance is when I’m furious and then it can get pretty wild ““ but afterwards, he’s back to his arrogant ways
Do you know any way I can adjust his personality to be a little nicer? He’s a model A244Silver ““ the new line. Is my personal companion permanently shizzed? Do I need to buy a replacement?
-Short Circuited on Mars
Just admit it! You love it. The A244 Silvers are engineered to respond to your social needs. If the A244 Silver is treating you like you are less than the dirt on his immaculate feet, then that’s exactly what you want. These things can read social signals better than any human born.
Embrace it! Don’t be ashamed that you want to be treated with distain. It may be fashionable to say that you and your personal companion constantly cuddle, but if you prefer that he is cold and distant till you are on fire with desire than that is more than fine ““ it’s hot! Listen angel-sparks, if you want my permission, you’ve got it. Have a hot time with your cruel personal companion.
If you honestly want his personality adjusted, the dealer will do that for a small fee. Don’t be surprised though, if you find out you liked him mean and sexy better than soft and snuggly.
That’s it for this week, Organics and Electrics! Remember Respect, and Treasure Pleasure.
Author : J.R. Blackwell, Staff Writer
He’s from the time before the bio-enhancements, before organs could be grown from a single cell. Age hollowed him out, and though his plastic face looks young, he’s just a shell. When I lean on his chest, I can hear what I imagine to be gremlins, moving around on the inside of his chest. Gremlins pumping streams of blood, moving his limbs and squeezing his heart.
His arms are hard and lumpy but he always sleeps with them around me, holding me to him at night. I used to slip out from under his embrace but let him embrace me. Bruises be damned.
He’s looked into bio-growth, but it’s expensive, and his system functions just fine. He’ll last for ages and the surgery, so simple for someone going from birth-wear to bio-wear, would be intense for him. He would have to replace his system, one part at a time, attaching bio-enhancements to clinking mechanical cogs. As soon as he would adjust, it would be time for another surgery, another hospital stay. Anyway, he’s not a man of the present he’s a man of our clattering, noisy past.
“They don’t make parts like they used to.” He tells me. He refuses to buy new parts. He searches instead for old parts and he fixes them up as he’s wearing down, rasping with the use of only one lung or hunched over an antique with a drill in his one working hand.
“What about when you run out of parts, when all the antiques are gone or broken?” I ask him, over and over.
He smiles his half metal smile and puts his one arm around me. “We’ll worry about that when we come to it.”
When his system needs fuel, his forehead glows orange with an unfamiliar mark. It’s the logo of the company that made him, long gone, absorbed, dispersed, back from the days of the big corporations, before the big crash. He’s old. I’ve said that. His fuel is rare and expensive. It is harder to find each time his light goes on.
“What about when all your fuel is gone” I ask him.
He cups my chin in his metal hands and brings his bronze forehead to my flesh one. “Our lights will all go out someday.” He tells me. “But my personal forever will be with you.”
His plastic and metal casing cools my flesh.
Author : J.R. Blackwell, Staff Writer
Kala waited till the sun rose above the mountains, and then got up out of the dirt to find Awn. Kala was covered in dirt and dust, some of which had gotten into the metal shoes that were locked to her feet. Awn was standing in a stream, cleaning the dirt off the vicious red brand mark on her thigh.
“You’re going to have to get dirty again come sunset,” Kala said.
Awn splashed water on her chest. “I’d like to feel human for a couple hours.”
Kala dipped her feet in the stream, letting the water get into her shoes and soothe her bruised feet. “I like the dirt. Makes me feel as if I’m less naked.”
Awn raised an eyebrow “Oh, you’re still plenty naked, Commander.”
Kala sat down. “We’ll make it, Ensign. We will.”
Awn laughed bitterly. “Sure. If the Leeches don’t eat, shoot or discover us and if we make pickup.”
“We’ll make it.”
“Why do you think they picked us for this mission?”
Kala leaned back on her muscular elbows. “Youth. I just got the rejuvenation done, and you’re young. Both of us know the Leech language and I’m a veteran.” Kala smiled but she knew Awn was expendable. Awn was just there to watch Kala’s back, watch her get the work done. They were commodities.
The weak green sun dipped behind the mountains and the Leeches rode into view. Kala didn’t know where they burrowed themselves during the day, but at night they rode on their skittering mounts, and drove them forward, towards their final destination.
Kala had to remind herself that genetically, these Leeches had human ancestors. But now, with their translucent skin, white lidless eyes and gaping circular mouths, they were only human in the barest outline. The Leeches drove the human herd, engineered to be mindless beasts, over the rough terrain.
On the third night, their feet sore in their metal shoes, the herd and the Leeches reached the military compound. They drove them into pens and negotiated loudly the price for wild humans.
Most of the herd fell asleep, but Kala and Awn remained awake, waiting. Soon, they would have their chance to fulfill the mission. The Leeches assumed the humans were stupid. From inside of the military compound, they could easily reach their target and then slip out into the night to await pickup.
Then the armored Leeches came to the pen. They smacked their round mouths together and pointed in the pen. They dragged one human out, and then another, slicing into human flesh with their rows of slender teeth, sharing flesh with each other, clamped on waists and thighs and shoulders.
They dragged Awn out of the pen. Awn looked at Kala desperately. Kala had the weapon: an electric charge hidden in a fake finger. Enough to kill her target, but not enough to save anyone. Kala buried her face in a pile of sleeping humans and looked away as they tore Awns flesh from her body.
When the sickly dawn came, Kala slipped out of the pen and through the compound on the route she memorized. She entered the sleeping chamber of the Leech General and flipped back her finger. She touched it to the Leeches face. It jerked once under her touch. Kala had hoped for something more, but that was all, a gentle death.
The sun rising in the sky, she walked out of the compound back into the dessert, her bloodstained shoes leaving a trail in the sand.
The 365 Tomorrows Free Podcast
: Voices of Tomorrow
This is your future
: Submit your stories to 365 Tomorrows
Author : J.R. Blackwell, Staff Writer
She fought me again yesterday. It made me feel like a monster. I tried the gentle approach but she refused, so I had to take her by force. It was, as usual, satisfying and depressing.
Afterwards, I hid in the forest and slept. I’m afraid she’ll try to kill me if I sleep out in the open. I tracked her and caught up quickly. If we don’t get back to the compound soon, the others, my people and hers, will assume we are dead. I imagine them dividing our meager possessions.
Today I brought her roast rabbit. Rabbits were rare for the first year after The Fallout, but now I’m finding more of them. Some of them are oddly mutated; missing a leg, or an extra ear, but they are still good for roasting. I left it next to her while she slept. Maybe it will help to mend things a little.
Later, I found her sitting cross-legged on a large rock. She was holding a stick she had chiseled to a point.
“Are you going to try to kill me again?” I asked her.
“I thought about it all day,” she said. “But no. I’m not. I just want to know why you’re doing this to me. Why won’t you let me go?”
She knows the answer, I’ve explained it over and over. “It’s because you’re young, fertile, unaffected by the radiation of the Fallout. It’s because my people have only found sixteen fertile women, and we can’t afford to lose a single one. I want to protect you and the children you’ll have.”
“You won’t protect them. You’ll eat them,” she said, angry, clutching her stick.
I shrugged. “I can’t stop you from seeing it that way.” Then I sat down next to her. I didn’t try to touch her. We were silent, watching the stars. They are clearer now that the city lights have gone out.
“Before all this,” she said, motioning to the diseased trees, “I was a chemist. Now you want me to be a baby factory. I need my life to be about more than that. You have forever. I only have sixty years – less now. Maybe there are other humans out here. Maybe I can find them.”
“I could help you,” I said suddenly. Even if I carried her back I don’t think she’d stay. She’d try to escape or kill herself.
I placed my cheek to the ground and listened. Her heartbeat was loud, little animals moved and the compound, weeks away, was on the horizon on my senses. But there was something else too, in the dessert. Movement. “I don’t know if it’s even human,” I said. “It could be dangerous.”
“Or it could be human,” she said. Her face softened. For the first time, I felt like she actually saw me as someone in need. “I can’t promise that I will ever accept you.”
“Just don’t fight me.”
“I can’t promise I won’t,” she said. “But I can try.” She moved close to me then, and put her arms around my shoulders. I kissed her cheek, her jaw. I was elated. When I bit her, she gasped, but she did not fight me. It was so quiet. I could hear her blood, her breath, the movement of flesh and bone. It was the sweetest drink I had since the Fallout.