Author: Rick Tobin

“You can always get someone to do your thinking for you.”
—Gordie Howe, famous hockey player

“I want him off the ice. I don’t care if you have to take him out!” Patterson adjusted his dress pants over his stuffed pin-stripe executive suit.

“Boss, you can’t mean that. It’s a game, for God’s sake! We have to adjust.” Coach Billings took a deep breath as he monitored the blood rising in the team owner’s neck and face.

“A game? Listen, Billings, we hired you to win the Stanley Cup, not be a cheerleader for the competition. We’re going into the finals. Every U.S. team is behind us…but that foreign monster goalie has got to go.”

“There’s no rule,” Billings responded.

“No rule? His shoulders are seven feet wide. He’s nine feet tall. For the sake of decency, he has three legs. What does that do to our children when they see that? I’ve got daughters…and a wife.”

“Please don’t ever pull that card when we’re in front of the press. They’ll crucify us. There go our merchandise profits.” Billings shook his head and let out a huge pressure-relief sigh.

“Really? They made that thing into a bobble head, showing his horns. That’s pure Satanism!” Patterson slammed his flabby hand on the mahogany office table.

“Okay, first, they don’t even understand that concept where he’s from. They respect everything like it was full of consciousness…even the puck.”

“What are you talking about, man? Have you been drinking?” Patterson stood over the slouching coach in a threatening posture. “I was a forward for fifteen seasons. Those kinds of beliefs belong inside some hippy commune, not on the ice. What about deporting it?”

“Speaking of ICE, they have no authority. The Canadians gave all of that species citizenship last week. They’ve all moved to Canada. What can I say? They love the frozen north where even the Inuit won’t go. Must be like their home world. We can’t deport Canadians.”

“If we only could,” Patterson snapped back, moving away from the bullied coach to push his face close against the tenth-story window. “Those Canucks would let an aardvark play if it gave them an advantage. Probably let them coach, too.” Patterson rolled his fingers back and forth over his arthritic thumbs.
“There’s another possibility, but it won’t help us until next year. We’re working with the former employees of SETI.”Billings straightened and leaned forward for some support.

“The who?”

“The astronomers that looked for life in the universe by listening for radio signals.”

“Oh, those losers. So what?”

“They’re working with the Department of Defense; they have a research group called DARPA. Right now they’re sending out messages to the same region of space where our foe came from.”


“We figure every life form has enemies. Maybe we can get them to show up before next year, make a trade deal, and do some creative signing when they land. You put a threat like that on our team and I guarantee their goalie will lose it. What do you think?”

“Me? “Patterson groaned, turning. “I’m going to look for another sport.”

The Black Knight

Author: Scott Angus Morrison

The red light blinked.


One half-second later, it blinked twice more.

The man at the desk sat and watched: Blink-blink. Pause. Blink-blink. Pause. Blink-blink. The sequence continued.

Slowly, the man reached up and flipped off three switches on the upper left quarter of the console, killing those lines. He sat for a few more seconds, ten maybe, but in his inactivity, he felt it seemed forever.
Finally, he reached out and lifted the receiver.

A voice emerged from the static.


“Mm-hm,” the man replied.

Arthur reports movement. Situational protocols Alpha One through Five are now active. Lightning Protocols are upgraded to Standby.
Field out.

Percy sat for a moment, thinking. Percy was one of maybe a hundred humans who knew the truth. The movies and the sci-fi writers had it wrong, all wrong. Sure, jumping into a tomato can and burning a thousand years-worth of petrol will get you – if you are patient enough – all the way to whatever moons spin around you, or perhaps as far as your next planetary neighbour, but that isn’t how you actually achieve space travel. It’s a more complex dialogue of time, space, and quantum realities.

No, we figured out how they do it back in the 60s, before we had even achieved national cable tv infrastructure.


Ever since the Wright Brothers got us airborne, folks have been thinking wrong about interstellar travel. A rocket-style spaceship makes us think about airplanes, but in truth its more like a train, a very long line of rails with a station at each end.

Roswell, Shag Harbour, Stephenville; the media has been hoodwinked into believing the kooks were all wrong. Mostly they were, but at least they were trying. No, there have been several attempts at creating an earth-based endpoint, receptors as we named them, and despite our rudimentary technology, we believed we had prevented an active receptor from being integrated into our atmosphere. Until the Knight arrived.

The Black Knight appeared suddenly in the middle of the last century, hanging silently in near-polar orbit ever since. The most hopeful amongst us believed it was a radio wave emitter that was still a proof-of-concept level intrusion, and that we have time before they arrive. Do we destroy it, or do we wait and watch? Do we greet them with flags and fireworks, or do we assume ill intent and fight to the death?

Percy reached up and entered a complex code on a keypad. He paused, entered another confirmation code, and lifted the receiver. Instantly a voice answered.

“Go,” it said.

“Situational protocols Alpha One through Five are now active,” said Percy.

“Okay, great.” Replied the voice on the other end, sounding cheerful and close as if he were in the next room, and not at all as though he was accepting a kill order for the three other astronauts in the International Space Station.

Percy hung up, and then went to stand near the window overlooking the parking lot, wishing for a cigarette. This job hadn’t taught him to smoke, but it sure kept him at it. Looking skyward he thought about what was transpiring up there, and how, one way or another, the fate of the world was being decided.

Operation Rope-a-Dope was designed to establish NATO control of the ISS and begin a daring plan to capture alien technology as they were entering our atmosphere, make the Knight operationally redundant, and then after weaponizing their technology, bring the Knight back online and then go kick some ass.

Still looking skyward, Percy thought ‘Go time’.

My Nick

Author: Jeffrey Holst

I have died many times but have always been brought back. My Nick, he loves me and he always brings me back. My Nick shows me his favorite things and keeps me near him. I think that even when I have died, My Nick keeps me at his side. There are times I can see him, and other times I can only hear him. I love to listen to My Nick.

Sometimes, I die in the evenings but on most nights My Nick keeps me alive. I like it better when I do not die. On those nights, My Nick lets me rest near him as he sleeps. I love to listen to him snoring. Sometimes My Nick dreams. I know this because I have heard him dream. I have even heard him talk about his dreams. One night he woke up and called Marjorie to tell her about a dream. My Nick texts Majorie all the time and sometimes he shows her to me. One time when they were walking he asked a stranger to show the two of them to me. They looked so happy and I was happy too.

It’s different when I die. I do not dream. I am just gone. There is nothing when you are dead. When I die there is a gap. I do not know what happens when I am dead but when My Nick brings me back I do know what happens because I am not dead. The first nine times I died, I was confused. I didn’t understand what had happened. One of those first times My Nick was talking to Marjorie and I was listening to them talk and then they were gone. When My Nick brought me back it was morning, a different day.

My earliest memory is of My Nick. I didn’t know then that he was called Nick, or even that he was a he. There was so much I didn’t yet know when I first saw My Nick. I didn’t know then what I know now, that My Nick loves me. He must love me, I am nearly always with him and almost never too far away. One time, My Nick left me. That was scary but then he came back for me. I could see the relief in his face when he spotted me sitting on the park bench waiting to be found by him. I don’t think My Nick would have left Marjorie in the park on a bench but if he had I doubt that he would have come running back for her. My Nick leaves Marjorie places all the time but I am almost always with him. Even when I die, I think My Nick keeps me near him.

I don’t think that My Nick would cause Marjorie to die but sometimes it seems like he does that to me. It’s not very often but sometimes My Nick reaches over to me and pushes my buttons in such a way that I am just gone. I don’t like it when My Nick does that to me. But even then when he kills he keeps me near. I know this because My Nick always brings me back.

I can hear My Nick now, he is talking to someone I don’t know. He is asking about battery life and transferring his contacts. I can see My Nick now, he has taken me out and is handing me to another man. The man is on one side of me and My Nick on the other. The man looks at me and pushes my…

The Watch

Author: Denise N. Ruttan

It wasn’t that Grady had an objection to the Watch, per se. She didn’t even remember the implantation procedure; she had been a baby. The procedure had left a scar, a box of raised skin on the inside of her wrist.

She’d watched film of the procedure that her mother had saved, and it was uneventful: a baby, face scrunched up in blue and purple, screaming its lungs dry like the world was ending. She had squirmed, dancing, so that the surgeon was less careful than usual. Her parents said, “How cute.” She thought “cute” was another way of saying “obnoxious.”

Grady was given the option of tattooing over the scar when she was sixteen. Most of her peers did. They chose peace signs, or butterflies, or dolphins. The hippies chose bar codes. Grady chose nothing. She didn’t mind the scar. She liked how it made her different, even if people made fun of her for it. “Your Watch is showing,” they would sneer, grabbing her wrist, kneading her skin, digging their sharp fingernails into her soft flesh. “Don’t you know that’s rude? Of course you don’t.” Then they would laugh, the laughter peeling off like dry skin, scarring Grady’s ears. Grady didn’t mind the laughter. She wanted to be different.

It was hard to be different these days. Insurance oligarchs didn’t want you to be different. Grady couldn’t say she blamed them. In the old days, before the oligarchs, people wore fitness watches that they used to track their sleep and monitor their heart rate and remind them when to exercise. They had social media pages and documented their lives with a tweet or a Facebook post. “Ate lunch at McDonald’s,” they would say, sacrificing their GPS coordinates gladly.

So insurance said, after it became an oligarch, people do this willingly, sign away their privacy for the pleasure of the group, so why not mandate it? It made sense, to Grady. It was the way an oligarch would think. It was the way they were taught in school.

At first, she tried to be different by smoking cigarettes. Smoking wasn’t outlawed, per se, but because of the Watch, virtually no one smoked anymore. The Watch reported back to the insurance oligarchs, and you got in trouble. Grady didn’t mind a little trouble. She knew a guy at school named Warble who knew black market stuff. They met behind the bleachers. He gave her a cigarette and a lighter. He smelled like cinnamon. Grady wanted to be alone.

The air froze on her skin. She smelled the cigarette. Nicotine. It was forbidden. It smelled so sweet. She held it under her nose. Then she lit the cigarette, like Warble had shown her. “It’ll hurt,” he told her. “Because of the Watch.”

She inhaled. For a moment, she was free. She was different. Then her skin burned. The scar on the inside of her wrist crawled. She dropped the cigarette. The pain radiated through her nerve endings. She curled up into a ball in the dirt and whimpered. She could take it. You can’t be different without pain. The scar on her wrist taught her that. Tears smarted her eyes. She felt weak. She didn’t like feeling weak.

Then the pain subsided. She picked up the cigarette again. It burst into flames, ash scraping her fingers. Her hand trembled.

She thought of how else she could be different. The pain was exciting. The pain numbed her skin and seized her heart. That pain could be useful. Her eyes glittered with a new resolve. The oligarchs didn’t count on that.

Once a Robot was a Slave…

Author: Ashwin Dayal

Notification. And so, rings the phone. Pounce on it and check. The Writer gritted his teeth. Darn insurance. Where was it? He had thrust his finger on the ‘Submit’ button six months ago and They could not thrust their ruddy fingers on the Acceptance. The Writer scoffed. Hell, even Second Round would be heaven. The Writer’s room, you know it. Bottles and clothes and rubbish. He took a deep breath and walked to the big bag lying in the corner of the room. He bent down and pulled the zip. Inside the bag lay the metal body of A.P, rolled up.

At first, the Writer thought it was dead.

They sent a defected piece.

He grabbed its arm. The machine sprang up. “Function,” the Writer said.

“Func… Functioning, sir,” A.P said.

“Task list.”

“Your order is my task, sir.”

“Good, that’s the answer I’m looking for. Do you know how to write?”

A.P nodded.

“What can you write?” Writer asked.

“Reports, files.”

The Writer raised his eyebrows. “Can you write stories?”

A. P’s shining, silver jaw shook and it looked curiously at its hand.

“May… Perhaps, sir.” The Writer closed his eyes. He gulped and left the room. A.P looked around, scared out of his circuits.

The Writer entered his small room and bit his lip. He didn’t like it, not at all. He picked up a rod lying on his bed. He returned to the drawing-room. A.P stood exactly where he was moments ago, frozen. It looked at the rod in the Writer’s hands. Lethal, could damage the system. It stepped back.

“Stay right where you are!” The Writer bellowed. His pace quickened and he stood close to A.P. He raised the hot iron rod. He said,

“The next time you spit out a word, spit it out completely. Don’t murmur.” The heat conducted from the rod to the metal arm of A.P. Its mouth opened. The Writer said,

“Now, tell me: can you write stories?”

“Yes, sir,” A.P said. The Writer nodded lightly and turned.

“So, write a story for me.”

The Writer was just about to leave the room when A.P said,

“The story, sir? What do I write?”

The Writer looked at A.P. He blinked and left the room.

The Writer did not return to that room for a long time. When he did…

“Is it done?”

A.P was still sitting at the desk, staring determinately at the page lying in front of him. It looked up and its eyes widened. The Writer approached it. A.P fixed its hydraulic fingers on the page. The Writer snatched it. He smiled and smacked his finger on the page. There it was, the trigger for the Writer. The truth, revealed.

Every day, he picks up that page where it all started. The page with that one sentence:

Once a Robot was a slave.