Author : Callum Wallace
Venomous flashes of blue and pink light ran across the thin plasteel veneer keeping his face separated from the filth in the room. Bass rumbles continued to shake up through his feet as the music of the nightclub continued, but the filters on his helmet managed to, blessedly, drown the worst of the heathen cacophony out.
More solid movement amongst the sporadic dance of light beams took his attention, and Torvald turned, watching with disgust as two frightened female revellers tried to scurry away, clutching at small, impractically sized handbags. He raised his pulse rifle and fired a quick salvo, disintegrating the two harlots into ash and powder.
He flicked a smudged mote of ex-harlot from his armour, and turned. A man was, apparently, trying to burrow through the grubby tiled floor and escape. Torvald leaned down close, bringing himself level with the creature. He saw the subtle curve of his face plate reflected in the beast’s sunglasses, and wondered idly as to why such shades would possibly be needed inside. At night.
Torvald knew he deserved death for this crime alone, and nodded. He ended the farce with a shot from his pistol, bathing the pitiful thing in a cleansing orange fire.
A double click of radio static told him that Omega had moved into the lower levels, and he straightened up, waving once to his troop. They readied themselves, taking aim at the vaulted doors that lead to further depravity below.
He counted to three and blinked into his HUD, bringing up the controls for the troop’s shared radio frequency.
He opened the com channel and spoke serenely. “Alpha. Fire.”
As the door to the lower level burst open like a boil, and the denizens poured through like so many wriggling, infected maggots, the first strains of Wagner’s Valkyries began to play through the soldiers’ headsets. They opened fire, lances of furious blue energy crackling through the air, weaving amongst the club’s multi-coloured strobe lights, cutting the dancers down, turning screaming men and women into nothing but carbon scoring and heat vapour.
The men and women of the Protectors of Political Correctness did their work, removing the diseased cells, destroying the revolting putrescence of unbridled adultery, drinking and vice, their emotionless faceplates gleaming indifferently. The air was soon hot with the smell of the purging flame, and the soldiers moved forward, trapping their quarry and stamping it out with the appropriate authority and lack of pleasure expected of such men and women of Rights and Virtues.
All were equal.
All were to be cleansed.
It was Correct.
And, as the clubbers and dancers ran, eyes rolling in terror, mouths flapping emptily as they tried in vain to escape, he couldn’t help himself; beneath the faceless helmet, under the emotionless uniform, that Proper, White, Sheening armour that protected his body from corruption by the hedonists and voyeurs, the perverts and the drinkers, he broke one of the most sacred rules:
Author : Aaron Emmel
The King of the Ruins was perched on the crumbled wall of an old building. He appeared to have been sleeping, but jerked up like a startled bird when I approached. His overlarge, once-white tunic flapped about him as he turned to face me.
“A story about America?” he asked. “Or television?”
“No,” I said, handing him some bread, cheese and grapes in a folded cloth. That was the deal: we brought him food, he told us stories.
“The Internet, then. It was all the thing for a while. Still is, across the oceans.”
“I want to hear about The End.”
He unwrapped the cloth to see what he was going to get. He ate some grapes, smiled, and rubbed his narrow thighs.
“It was quick,” he said. “It’s amazing how fast the world can change.”
I nodded. “The politician. Frykes. Why did he do it?”
The King regarded the structure beneath him, steel bones jutting from concrete flesh. “Power.”
“But what about Democracy? Checks and Balances? All the reasons there would never be a revolution?”
He looked down at me. His pale blue eyes pushed me back a half-step. “Isn’t it your day for the gardens?”
“You should be with the Twelve group.”
“What’s it to you? You’re not part of the Clan.”
He rubbed his thighs again. “You’re fighting with Jupa?”
“He wants to be head of the group. He may be stronger, but I’m faster, and I’m smarter.” I growled the last words.
“Maybe,” said the King, “Frykes was like you when he was young. He was smart. He was fast. He knew his day would come. But there is a thing called Time, Jonathan, and it trumps Democracy, and all the Checks and Balances ever thought of. It’s the strongest, and the fastest, and the smartest, all rolled up in one. And one day Frykes realized his time was passed. It’s a thing that happens when you get older.” He looked back at the cavern where he slept, a dark well in the side of a fallen building.
“You mean he gave up?”
“He just said to himself, ‘This is no longer my time.’ And he decided to fight for his power. Like everyone does. Like you and Jupa will do. His enemy would not win. He promised himself that at the beginning. Frykes would win, or the whole continent would fall, but his enemy would not win.”
“So everything got destroyed. Frykes didn’t win, either. There wasn’t anything left to win.”
“But his enemy didn’t win.”
I stared at him. “Was it worth it?”
“No,” he said.
“Would you try again?”
“Are you still going to fight Jupa?”
“Yes,” I said.
He nodded. “Well, that’s the way of it, then,” he said, and began picking through the cheese.
Author : Amy Fogelstrom Chai
On the roof, at least twenty-five stories up, with LED party lights strung up over a cheesy bamboo bar jury-rigged from last year’s staff picnic get together we have a regular Tiki Town. The night sky is crisp and the lights twinkle from twilight triggered streetlamps below and the Ursas, Cassiopeia, and the whole milky arm of our own spiral galaxy above. And the drinks.
We like them neat, the real drinkers, because who wants ice to dilute that fine single malt anyway? And someone brought out a nice cabernet. Warmth brings out the flavor, they say. The hospital roof was not meant for socializing, and certainly not for drinking, what with the coping on the parapet wall not more than knee high. But Tiki Bob, the cardboard god with the hula grass hair and the sharpie smile, would smite us not. Or smite maybe—it was a long way down.
The orthopedic surgeon is still an asshole, and the internist still nebbishy, and neither can match the sergeant from the local National Guard patrol unit drink for drink. He’s a burly guy, and who the hell can complain about the way he knocks back the scotch since he was the one who commandeered it from what used to be the liquor store. But God, we all hope it doesn’t run out too quick. We still have the rooftop, and the astonishing starry sky.
The skinny x-ray tech has her scrub top rolled up to show off her tramp stamp, and she’s such a whore she’s flirting with all the orderlies. Or maybe she’s just drunk. At least she is better than that nurse by the stairwell who can’t stop crying and smoking and shaking like a leaf. Nobody can decide whether to tell her to shut the hell up or to push her off the roof or just to ignore her.
Medical records staff are shaking it to some rap from the last century, partying like it’s 1999. Who has a boom box these days anyway? The pharmacy tech wraps a grass skirt around his waist and does a Tiki hula dance. I wouldn’t have expected that from him, to be honest. Then come the CDC people, with voices like fucking Darth Vader through their level four positive pressure biohazard suits. Yeah, tell us something we don’t know.
Okay, sure, we expected that but the internist goes a little nuts and that sort of freaks us all out. Breathe in, breathe out, we don’t need the CDC to tell us that shit, because below us is twenty-five stories of exactly what we already know. The whole town? It’s quiet down there. But up here, on the roof, the party is just getting started.
From what I can tell from just the eyeballs, the CDC epidemiologist is kind of hot. How long? We have all night up here, and I hope you make it back to Atlanta. There, too? Damn. Overhead, Cygnus rises.
Author : Frank Robledano Espín
Slowly, he opened his eyes, taking in the pure white light of the transference chamber, breathing in the antiseptic smell, feeling the excessive warmth of the room on his face. Apart from the ergocreche he was in, the space was bare. With a barely perceptible hum, his seat righted itself to a near vertical position and began to stretch out, gently cradling his body but firmly getting him to his feet. Within a minute he was standing and the apparatus was moving backwards and disappearing into its housing in the wall.
“My name is Richard Mechwright. I am not the same person I was when I entered.”
“Neptune colony, Triton habitat, block seven. North pole cryovolcanic mining and study. I am not the same person I was when I entered.”
“I enjoyed intimate congress with children. I took the lives of several so they would not incriminate me. I enjoyed causing them pain prior to ending them. The danger, the prospect of being caught was also titillating, another paraphilic source of pleasure. I am not the same person I was when I entered.”
“I have been reconditioned, of my own volition. My medial orbitofrontal cortex has been repaired to provide a nominal baseline of control. The temporal lobe has had several nanoshunts implanted, including four to regulate my malfunctioning amygdala. I have had extensive restructuring of the hippocampus, with dozens of key memories having been extracted, rerecorded, and replaced to provide a more stable moral foundation and eliminate most of the original trauma that led to my aberrance. I am not the same person I was when I entered.”
“I opted for reprogramming rather than execution because I did not wish to die. I did not understand the extent to which I would be changed. Truthfully, I doubt that anyone that submits actually does. My perspective is different, now. I do not have the exact same memories. I can not brook the same appetites. I am not the same person I was when I entered. I understand this litany is supposed to empower me to leave here, that it is somehow supposed to comfort me, enable me to start afresh. I contemplate what I was and feel only deep revulsion, a primal disgust. As a sane, clear-thinking, reconditioned individual I feel I must opt for termination. I can feel the person I was through a thin, soiled gauze throughout my being. I feel as if I were sharing the same space with an ephemeral disease or invisible feces stains I can not scrub clean. I do not wish to live this way.”
Several seals clicked in to place. The gamma wave emitters began to come to life with a soft hum. Relief washed over him as he thought of –
Author : Beck Dacus
I have worked for eleven years figuring out how we lost everything. Anecdotes passed down from people who were alive before this War, I have discovered, have long since deteriorated into dimly remembered nonsense. I don’t know much about the time before, but I now know what ended it.
It was in the age of “Computers,” machines that held information in a complex mass of metal wires. There were still books, but much of what many of them said was outdated– anyone could contribute to the Computer library, or Internet, so it was constantly kept up to date. Some wrote down the wrong information, however.
The point is, no one could remember it all. No reasonably-sized group of people could, either. When conflict began, “Countries” started to take advantage of this and, instead of killing the people in their rival Countries, they would start erasing information.
Sometimes, operatives would be sent to physically destroy files, books, and the like in acts of arson. More often, though, they would create imperfections in the Internet, and destroy large swathes of information. Much of it was restored each time, but soon there were too many attacks happening to restore all the information that was lost that day. Soon, there was a net loss of information.
The attackers experienced this dilemma as well, as the victim and/or its allies would retaliate with “Book Strikes.” Countries banded together to try and destroy information in other places before theirs was all lost, but everyone failed. Everyone lost the War when it ended so many hundreds of years ago.
Which brings us to now.
No one can even access any data anymore, much less that of a rivaling Country. Soon Countries were irrelevant, anyway. We forgot what the stars are. What the Sun is. Why there is day and night. How the era of consumption we see in the massive landfills dotting the Earth were ever possible. We may have to rediscover all of that.
And we will. I know it. Because, thanks to my research, we already know not to do one thing.