Third Viola in Paris

Author : J.R.Blackwell, Staff Writer

Peter ran to the docking station, his small duffel bag slung over his shoulder. He did not walk in the front end where the merchants, pilots and passengers boarded their flights. Instead, the young man slipped behind the security tent and toward the cargo loading docks. Peter was lean and tall with the thick blue-black hair that was typical of most Martians tied back behind his head.

At the entrance to Cargo 3 the Peter saw a hooded man leaning against the wall, hunched into a dark, hooded robe. He felt another rush of adrenalin. Was this a workman or his lover learning against the wall. He crept closer, trying to peek under the robe for any glimpse of Christopher’s silver hair or long nose. After several long minutes the man in the hood looked up and Peter recognized Christopher Tshosvosky, guest conductor of the Martian Symphony and his lover.

“Christopher” whispered Peter. The conductor jumped and let out a breath.

“Peter. You made it.” He held out his arms.

Peter ran to him. “It was difficult getting past the security fence but the cutter you gave me deactivated the electric wire in my section and sliced though the fence easily.”

Christopher took Peters hands in his own. “Lover, I am so proud, so pleased.” Christopher pointed to the pack Peter was carrying. “Your instrument?”

“And a few other things I couldn’t bear to part with.”

Christopher motioned with his fingers. ”Give it to me.”

“I can carry it myself.”

“No, you can’t. If you want it when you wake up, I’ll have to take it. Don’t worry, I’ll take care of your things.”

“When I wake up?”

“Lover, I can’t just add you to the flight roster. Immigration between Earth and Mars is challenging, if I hadn’t been asked to come and guest conduct-“

“I thought you said you could get me on this flight, that I would join you in the Paris orchestra.”

“I can – you can! Just not awake.” Christopher motioned inside the hanger. “I still have some contacts. I faked and ID for a chryo cube. You’ll be Mrs. Fletcher for the trip. Once you’re in the cube, they won’t be able to identify you, then I unfreeze you on Earth and we work it out there, where I have more influence.

Peter backed away. “Connections, right.”

“What’s wrong? I thought you wanted to come with me.” Christopher leaned his face forward for a kiss, but Peter backed away.

“Sometimes Martians disappear, taken away on ships, kidnapped.”

“What are you implying?”

Peter crossed his arms. “Earth has a rich organ market and it’s easy to make people disappear between planets.”

“Peter, I don’t’ want to kill you. I want you to play third viola for me in Paris.” Christopher put an arm around Peter’s shoulder. Peter did not return the gesture of affection, but he did not pull away.

“A batch of organs would make a man rich.”

“Yes, yes it would. I’m not going to deny the realities of the Earth organ market. A batch or organs would make a man very rich, and it would be easy to put someone in freeze and never wake them up. You just have to trust that won’t be me. You have to trust me.”

“Why didn’t you tell me about this before?”

“I was afraid that if I told you, you wouldn’t come. I was afraid of going back to Earth without you, of living a life without you. I was afraid that you would say no. Don’t think about it. Trust that I love you.”

Peter looked into those blue-green eyes, as blue and mysterious as the pictures of Earth. Christopher took Peter’s hand and led him to a white cube that was glowing softly.

“Kiss me,” said Peter. “So that if you love me, you will seal me inside and kiss me again on waking. Kiss me, so that if you are untrue, the kiss will be a seal and a curse on you.”

Christopher didn’t hesitate, but pulled Peter toward him and kissed him hard, without finesse, mashing their lips together. Peter stepped into the cube.

The 365 Tomorrows Free Podcast: Voices of Tomorrow
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Author : J.R.Blackwell, Staff Writer

“Seven months after the Storm latched on to her memory, she didn’t know my face. Four months later, she forgot me entirely. A month after that, she forgot everything.” Jacob lowered his head. It was his day to speak at the Storm Virus Survivors meeting, and he had chosen to appear as a Dragon, to give himself a feeling of strength. He curled around the other seated Avatars, his tail tapping nervously, his claws crossed neatly, like the paws of a cat.

The support group met in one of the freeware preconstructs. It was a field on a spring day, in the middle of which were comfortable, hand carved wooden chairs arranged in a circle. It was a preconstruct everyone had seen before, meant to sooth. To Jacob, it seemed cheap. Jacob was an artist, he designed the constructs that people lived in. His Avatar, the rippling dragon, was a the most complex in the group. Most of the others chose just to replicate their physical forms.

Jacob sighed. “I don’t want to remember her that way. I want you to think about a year ago, her life after he knew she was going to be erased. She held on till the last moment, she kept her joy with her. When she could, she would tell me everything she remembered about how we met. She came to treasure her memory in a way so few of us appreciate.”

The leader of the group, an Avatar in a long white dress, spoke. “Did she Reboot?”

“Eventually, she had to. Storm invaded her system and erased her memory, everything she’d ever known.”

“Are you two still together?” asked the group moderator, Mary-Anne.

“No. After she Reboot, I left. She had family to take care of her.”

“Why did you leave her Jacob?”

Smoke curled out of Jacobs nostrils. “Everyone says they’re still alive because they can Reboot, start over. They are wrong. Reboot, and her organic childhood is gone. Reboot, and I never held a candle with her in n-shaped e-space. Reboot, and we never tried on those bodies so we could experience a summer day in Maine. Reboot, and the woman that was is gone. Mimi is dead.”

Quinn raised his hand. The group leader nodded at him. “Have you tried to contact her?”

“I don’t know the innocent person that walks with her pattern. I only know the loss that burrows in my being, at every decision I make, at every moment.”

Mary-Anne nodded. “I’m really glad you chose to share Jacob. Does anyone have any thoughts they would like to share with Jacob?”

Quinn raised his hand. “I know I’m not supposed to give advice, but I just feel like, if you liked Mimi before, you might like her again. I mean, maybe not, but it’s worth a chance, right?”

“Thank you Quinn,” said Mary-Anne.

Jacob shrugged his massive shoulders. “It won’t be the same. She’s changed.”

“We all change, even without Storm, we change. Why not take a chance? You might like this Mimi too!”

“That’s enough Quinn,” said Mary-Anne. “No advice.”

“It’s just, when the Storm took my memory, my friends stuck by me. It meant so much to me. I know you are afraid, but she needs you, and you may be giving up a big chance.”

“Quinn, this goes on any longer and you’ll have to be excused from the group.”


“No, I think he may have a point,” said Jacob. “I was so afraid that the new Mimi wouldn’t love me that I couldn’t take a chance on her. She needed me, and I abandoned her.”

“There is still time!” said Quinn.

“That’s it,” said Mary-Anne. “You are out!” Quinn disappeared.

“I’ve got to go too,” said Jacob. “There’s a new person out there I need to introduce myself too.” Jacob winked out of the group to meet his ex for the first time.

The 365 Tomorrows Free Podcast: Voices of Tomorrow
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Author : J.R.Blackwell, Staff Writer

To the Dar, Seed is immortal.

Seed knows he is not immortal, it’s just that the nature of his cellular structure, the length or certain mitochondrial chords that determine his long lifespan. Longer than the Dar, longer than the normal human life.

Seed is not normal. Seed has been Altered. The chemical treatments, the virus that mutated his body, the tiny machines he swallowed that sunk into his cells and changed him were painful, but not half so painful as the long and terrible travel to The Dar. Even sleeping most of the journey, Seed felt the passage of time like an ache in his muscles, the endless silence, the dark sleep without dreams.

More than once on that journey, Seed considered suicide. There were a hundred different ways he could kill himself on his tiny ship. There was starvation while he slept, certainly the most cowardly way out. There was opening his airlock and dipping himself into the nothing that was space. The vacuum so like death itself, a dark void of still and cold. He would have liked to say that the thought of the mission, his calling, kept him from taking his own life. However, after waking up and making his ship adjustments for the hundredth time, the mission seemed very small. It was only fear that kept him inside his warm little pocket of safety.

When he landed with the Dar, he was so lonely that even their strange company was a relief. The Dar were like birds and squid but like neither as well, something altogether alien in construction. Their “feathers” were rubbery cellular structures that flared around their segmented bodies when they slipped underwater. They could expand four tentacles from their bodies to grip objects. Their cone heads had eight great eyes, half covered with milky lids that blocked out the bright light from their green sun.

They were sentient, but simple, living seasonally, unwilling to make any but minor modifications to their environments. The Dar were friendly and curious though, and when Seed learned their high, underwater language, they welcomed him to their bizarre world.

One hundred years after landing Seed lives with a Dar collective. Sixteen Dar crowded inside Seed’s modified ship. They traveled all over their world. The Collective does not worship him anymore, but treat him like an elder, with reverance and love. They allow him to perform his tests, they marvel at his shiny red machines, curling their eight fingers around those smooth shapes.

It is eight fingers on each extremity row now, instead of three. The tentacles, once able to retract, are now permanently extended. Two of the tentacles are atrophying and inside the other two, a kind of stiff cartilage is growing.

He is making them human.

It will take a hundred generations, but he will make them human. A little different perhaps, to be better adjusted to the climate, but the Dar will be able to breed with any human from any other world. Transporting enough humans across the stars to colonize or conquer a planet takes more energy and resources than contained in a star. Changing a planet, this is the work of an Artist, a Doctor, a Master, a General, a Seed. This is the calling, to spread humanity among the stars.

In a hundred generations, Seed will be home again.

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The Cult of Personality

Author : J.R.Blackwell, Staff Writer

“I was a fat old man way before it got popular.” The fat old man leaned across the old fashioned, wooden bar. “When I chose this body it was before what’s-his-face got on the Feeds about bellies and beards. I decided I wanted to be big, on my own, for, whatsit, philosophical reasons.”

“Oh yeah?” said the bartender, distantly sympathetic.

“I wanted to fill up space.” The old man gestured at his girth.

The bartender nodded, cleaning a glass. The old man continued. “I was raised in the Cult of Barbie. Really, I was. I know I don’t look like it now but I’d been a Barbie all my life. I know, doesn’t show to look at me now, but I was one of the plastic people, shiny hair, long legs, perfect surgical tan. I used to wear miniskirts. And the shoes, rows and rows of them. My closets, if you could have seen them then, you would have been amazed.”

The fat old man, who wasn’t really old at all, pushed himself back from the bar and stood, pointing at his feet. “You know how many shoes I’ve got now? Two, the ones I’m wearing. I didn’t take this body to be fashionable.”

The bartender raised an eyebrow. “Then why did you take it?”

Shaking his finger, the old man came back to sit on the barstool. “It’s not to rebel against the Cult, if that’s what you think.”

“Didn’t even come to my mind.” said the bartender.

“I did it to be free. You always had to watch yourself with the Barbie’s. You always had to be perfect.” He shook his head. “I did it. It was the way I was raised. I went through Skipper then the initiation to a full Barbie, the whole thing. You ever dated a Barbie?”

“Do I look like I make enough money to date a Barbie?”

The old man laughed. “No, you don’t. But they slum it sometimes. Although they always drive the bankrupt ones to tears. I remember. I couldn’t do it anymore. I couldn’t take more money and spend it on clothes, crap really, just crap. I wanted to be covered by fat, my inner self-hidden. I wanted a big beard so you couldn’t ignore me. I wanted to be a drunk, I wanted to smell like a man whose been somewhere besides the mall and the compound.”

The bartender placed the glass upside down on the shelf. “You’ve been places since those days, then?”

“Oh yes.” said the old man. “I’ve seen up more skirts than when I lived among them. I’ve walked far in these good shoes. Then, when I want to disappear, I’m not pretty enough to notice.” He sighed over his drink. “But now, that damned actors made my look popular.”

“You gonna change then?” said the bartender.

“I have to, don’t I? I’m not one of those fad bodies.”

“So you’re worried that people will see you as fashionable then?”

“Yes.” The old man looked into his drink, his face warped in the brown liquid. “You know what?” he said, looking up at the bartender. “Screw em. I’m not changing. I’ll be this way long after they’ve found another body type to take.”

“You’ll be even further out of fashion then.”

“You’re right, you’re damned right.” The old man slammed his fist onto the bar, triumphant. “Bartender, another drink to celebrate.” He raised his glass “To the death of fashion.” He said. “May we all fall out of style.”

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The Star Prince

Author : J.R.Blackwell, Staff Writer

Lucias XI, the Star Prince, son of Byron II, the Merchant King, threw open the double doors to the marble war room. His demeanor was fierce, his face chiseled, displaying no emotion. His wiry body was tense, coiled. He pointed as he stomped into the room, his heels clicking against the marble.

“Minister Holt, please explain the meaning of this!” He waved his hand, and in his palm there appeared a miniature version of the emerald robed Minister.

Holt’s voice was smooth in the recording. “The Prince has, not a wife, but a monster, their union an abomination-” The Prince closed his palm, his breath coming hard.

Holt bowed. “Has the Parliament revoked the freedom of safe expression act, my Lord? ”

“I expect that my enemies will attack my personal life Minister, but from my friends-”

“Nothing of your life is personal my Lord, nothing.”

“My marriage was a public arrangement, my enjoyment of my wife’s company is private.”

“Not when that enjoyment endangers your life!”

The Prince whirled, turning to the assembled Generals. “You are dismissed. Minister Holt and I are about to have words.” The Generals filed out. The Prince calmed his breathing, his gloved hand unclenching slowly. A strand of purple hair, royal purple, the symbol of his royalty fell over his hazel eyes. Tall and slim, he stood a foot taller than Holt.

The Prince looked down at the Minster through thick violet lashes. “Xixor would never hurt me.”

“There is scar on your chest, your Excellency, that says otherwise.”

“An accident.”

“Your life cannot afford accident, my lord. You are a precious resource, a finely tuned genetic triumph, your code idealized to the standards we require, as was your father and thousand mothers. Nobility obliges my Lord; you are not allowed to play dice with your life. I have only said aloud what the populace already mutters. You did not see what we saw lord, for you were unconscious, but the four world saw your limp, bleeding body in the arms of a black oily beast, claws streaked with your blood, that’s what the people saw, and we must answer to their concerns.”

“My wife, Minister. She is my wife.”

“An alien monster.”

“I won’t hear your xenophobia.”

“Then you will not hear the words of your people.”

“I married her so there would be understanding between our people and hers.”

“The understanding, my Lord, is that she will someday eat you. You, who we have worked so hard to design.”

The Star Prince leaned against the wall, his head resting against the marble. “I love her Holt.” He ran a hand across his chest. “What she did, that was how she shows her affection toward me. I was built to be a prince of reason, of diplomacy.”

Holt hung his head. “We built you too well.”

The 365 Tomorrows Free Podcast: Voices of Tomorrow
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