Author : Gray Blix
They met after hours in her office.
“Dr. Molloy, I’m Detective Buckley,” he said, flashing his ID and a smile. “Thanks for agreeing to see me.”
He sat across from her, scolding himself for inappropriate thoughts about the way she filled her chair. She was intimidated by his bulk, which overflowed his chair.
“You want to talk about Schrei.”
“Yes. The recent victims, tasered and smothered. Schrei’s MO.”
Forcing a smile, “You think he has risen from the grave?”
“No, ma’am. I think there’s a copycat killer, and he’s going after anyone connected with Schrei’s prosecution — the arresting officers, the DA, the judge. You consulted on that case.”
“Which puts me in danger.”
She didn’t look like any criminologist he’d ever seen, except on TV.
“Right,” assuming an upright posture, “as I said on the phone, you need protection. That’s one reason I’m here.”
“I’ve been assigned lead on this case, and I could use your help. Your book on Schrei is remarkable. Did you gain those insights from reading his digitized cube?”
“‘Reading’ it? The cube is not an ebook. It contains petabytes of compressed data meant to be recovered as a whole, a fully functioning human consciousness. You can no more read a cube than you can read a mind. That was my point in the book. My insights were the result of painstaking analysis of behavior, patterns, clues, forensics . . .”
“Of course, I didn’t mean to imply otherwise,” noticing an object on her desk, “Is that the cube?”
She placed it in the palm of his large right hand.
He stuttered, “Whose idea was it to upload the mind of a serial killer?”
“His cancer progressed to stage IV during the trial. Since he hadn’t been convicted yet, he had every right to arrange for the upload by GPM.”
“Guardians of Perpetual Minds.”
“So, like cryonics, freezing heads and keeping them in cold storage? Only with images of minds stored in cubes? Weren’t they supposed to hang on to those cubes until technology advanced and they could transfer the contents to . . . what? A computer, a robot, a body?”
“Any host capable of assimilating digitized minds and allowing them to resume consciousness. When GPM went bankrupt, unclaimed cubes were up for grabs, so the university acquired them for research purposes.”
He decided the shade of her red hair could not have come from a bottle. She was the real thing, genuine from the tip of her hair to . . . everything below.
Bringing the cube up to eye level, “This thing could be dangerous in the wrong hands. Once a killer, always a killer.”
“Yes, it is likely that Schrei’s recovered mind would have the same primal need to kill.”
He felt a twinge at her uttering the phrase ‘primal need.’ The content of that sensitivity training course he’d been required to take evaporated from his memory.
Leaning forward, “I need you, Dr. Molloy. Please . . .”
“Consult on the case, Detective Buckley?” she said, finishing his sentence as she gently removed the cube from his hand. “I’ll do better than that.”
Her free hand pressed a taser against his neck and 50,000 volts left him writhing on the floor, where she smothered him.
“I’ll make you a hero who gave his life trying to warn me, trying to protect me,” she said as she pressed 9-1-1 into her cell phone.
She dragged him into the hall, and while she waited for the police to arrive, she went over her story, how she had arrived late for their meeting and found his lifeless body at the door to her office.
Author : Connor Harbison
It was a bright and stormy orbit. Wave after wave of solar radiation buffeted the Barracuda, wreaking havoc with her electronics and damaging her solar sails. Captain Aguilar frowned at the display on the bridge.
“Sir, the mainsail can’t take much more of this. We had to bring in the mizzen, and the foresail is showing signs of strain too,” said Lieutenant Chen.
“Can we bring all the sails in? Just ride out the storm on this trajectory?”
“Negative, sir. Our outermost sensors are already fried. If we stay put eventually everything will shut down, first sail controls, then shielding, and finally life support and other crucial systems.”
Not an enviable situation to be in. Aguilar had only been in one other stellar storm of this magnitude. At that time Aguilar had been a midshipman, and there were more senior officers on which to rely. Now it was all on his shoulders; every soul aboard the Barracuda depended on the captain to see them to safety.
“Adjust the mainsail and foresail to catch the brunt of the stellar wind,” Aguilar decided. “Unfurl the mizzen as well. I want a full press of carbon.”
Aguilar watched apprehensively as the carbon nanotube sails unfurled then adjusted themselves. Seconds later the entire ship began to change direction, running before the cascades of high energy particles ejected by the nearby star.
“Captain, we’re getting reports from the crew that the sails are tearing.”
“It’s not coming up on any of the displays.”
“The sensors that feed into those displays went offline hours ago. We’re relying on old fashioned word of mouth from the crew.”
“Very well. Inform them that the sails will stay up. Tell the helmsman to bring her four points to starboard.”
“Right away, sir.”
Lieutenant Chen carried out the captain’s orders, keeping his reservations to himself. Aguilar was unorthodox at times, but he always got the right results in the end. Chen hoped for his own sake, and that of the crew, that the captain knew what he was doing this time.
“Captain, mizzen is in shreds, foresail is almost the same. The mainsail is holding, but I’m not sure for how long. There are a dozen tears in it.”
“Fine, fine. Stow all sails. Get them out of this bombardment.”
Lieutenant Chen never knew how the captain could stay so calm in dire straits like these. He relayed the orders before looking to Aguilar expectantly.
“What now, sir?
“Now? We wait.”
The Barracuda was down to basic life support and communications by the time they picked up a friendly signal.
“This is Vanquisher Station, come in Barracuda.”
“Captain Aguilar of the Barracuda. We’ll need help coming in to dock. Our sails were ripped up in the stellar storm and we don’t have much in the way of control. Right now we’re just coasting on inertia.”
“You made it through that storm? A dozen ships must have been lost in that. We’re still repairing the station.”
“Well add another item to your repair list,” said Captain Aguilar. “The Barracuda needs to be made whole.
Author : Dan Larnerd
Doctor Grace Virchow sat at her computer desk with her eyes closed. Her office was dark and full of deep shadows. Only the flickering blue light of her computer monitor illuminated the scene.
Next to her sat a cold cup of coffee and a picture of her family that lay face down. The wall that stood behind her was bare. The diplomas and professional accolades lay scattered at its base. Her humanitarian award sat in a nearby trashcan.
An anguished cry echoed from down the hall. Doctor Virchow opened her eyes.
On her monitor was a high-priority email from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. It began with a long list of recipients followed by an urgent message set in a giant type.
Attention Hospital Medical Personnel:
Several cases of a parasitic infection have been reported in your region. It is highly contagious. This parasitic organism may be extraterrestrial in nature. Please report any cases to the CDC for immediate military quarantine. See attached photo.
In the upper corner of the email was a paperclip icon showing a photo had been attached to the email. Doctor Virchow frowned and clicked on the file.
A picture of a young military private appeared on the screen. He glared bitterly at the camera with his hands cuffed behind him. Across his neck, and growing up the side of his face, was a swarm of turquoise-colored spores. Some of them were the size of marbles while the biggest were the size of ripe plums. Two armed men stood in the background pointing their weapons at their infected comrade.
“No! Don’t put that on me! No!” a patient screamed from down the hall.
Doctor Virchow deleted the emergency email and the picture of the infected solider disappeared from her screen. She sat back in her chair and gently stroked the spores growing across her own face.
Author : Charles E.J. Moulton
William felt relieved, actually.
One more hour of digging and his hands would have lost all their flesh.
William threw down his shovel, straightened his back, stretching his muscles and positively felt his 50 year-old bones snap, crackle and pop inside his body.
The termite nests he had found proved it.
The small parasites had caused the fairy circles.
“One more picture,” William whispered to himself, lifting his Nikon D4 and pushing the button. He triggered utter panic down there. He loved watching the little guys. Was that mean? William didn’t know. The fact of the matter was that lonely William found himself at last in the position of being able to deliver the geological institute a definite solution as to why these strange fairy circles were appearing along the African coast.
Fairy circles? Why had William become so interested in these things at all? That Spanish ufologist came to mind, that dark guy with the dyed blond hair. A whole evening’s worth of discussion had commenced and prompted William to prove the Spanish guy wrong. Standing here in Namibia five years later, that damn sun transforming his skin into a wasteland of wounds, William remembered yelling at that guy that Africa was not the U.S. and that the American crop circles were not to be compared with the African coast.
William reached toward his back pocket and took out his lukewarm water. The liquid felt cool trickling down his throat, cooler than the African sun. In comparison with that sun, the wind seemed chilly. In comparison with the heat, the water seemed refreshing. In comparison with the surrounding grass, these bare patches of wasteland seemed desolate. Eaten by parasites, devoured by insects, all life extinguished to serve one breed of vermin.
William took a few tired steps toward the large stone, throwing the bottle into his bag. Too many years now, too much research. It was time to go home now, take all his research, all those probes, all those little bugs, all that red sand, and give it to the institute in Johannesburg.
William wanted to spend at least a month just doing paper work at his office, eating pizza with his kids over the weekend, making love to his wife on Friday nights, enjoying an Orange River South African Pinotage red wine and a Bobotie dish of South African ground meat with an egg topping. No more than a few jotting of words in his notebook and he could call his wife and tell her to bring out the Scrabble game and pop the pop-corn for the kids.
No time for phone-calls, only time for the dropping of William’s notebook and pen. Had he not been seated, William would’ve stumbled.
The sun darkened because of the size of the arriving spaceships. William now knew what the Spaniard had described and how it was to see a UFO: the disability to move, the increased heartbeat, cold sweat running down a spine, the tingling of the nerve cells, the fear, then three alien ships burning three new dead fairy circles into the Arican ground.
When the alien walked out and took him by the hand, William didn’t protest. Questions were asked, information was exchanged and somewhere inside one of the ships he saw him: the Spanish ufologist. He smiled. It seemed, he belonged there.
William left the fairy circles forever, drove home, made love to his wife, gave up geology and became a painter.
William’s UFO-experience remained a secret for the rest of his life.
Termites remain the official cause of the circles.
Author : C. Chatfield
“Shut up, Jim.”
“It might be dangerous.”
“A bear wanders into my yard, I call Animal Control. I’m not gonna shoot it just for being here, Gabe.”
“Sure. You got the number for Alien Control?”
“Quiet. It’s probably not an alien.”
“You ever see goo move like that?”
Next to the three men, a patch of rippling orange goo extended probing tendrils into the surrounding underbrush. There was a sizzling sound as the creature began to sink through the vegetation. After a moment of contemplation, it trembled and assumed the shape and texture of the dissolved grass and bushes: a flawless disguise, if not for the stubbornly garish shade of orange.
“What do you think you’re doing, Jim?”
“I’m just gonna nudge it.”
Jim eased up to the phony grass and poked it with the toe of his brown boot. He let out a yelp and fell backward, abandoning the boot, as the ooze reared up in one flowing motion. By the time his friends lifted him off his rear, all that remained was a bright orange boot sitting in a circle of dirt.
“Christ!” Jim grasped for Gerry’s gun, his eyes the size of golf balls. “Shoot it!”
The creature ballooned upwards until it towered over the terrified men. The pillar of ooze collapsed squarely onto Jim, cutting off his screech.
Gerry and Gabe stood frozen while the goo twisted and writhed into a humanoid shape. A moment later, the new Jim was shaking out his limbs and humming, surveying the empty meadow with satisfaction before turning to the two men.
Gerry nodded numbly and handed over the gun.
Gabe gave him the keys.
The new Jim drove the car in a meandering arc before rolling down the passenger window to speak to them in a halting voice, choosing each word with painstaking care. “Thanks, guys. I gotta say, I’m sorry about your friend. If it helps, he’ll live on inside of me. In one way, I’ll give him a new life. It should be very exciting.” He paused and cocked his head, “You two probably don’t have much information about this planet that I didn’t already get from your friend, so I’m gonna leave you here. Go ahead and try to tell someone what happened, but I don’t think anyone’ll believe you.”
He waved and drove off, leaving Gerry and Gabe to gape. When the taillights had disappeared and the dust settled, Gabe sank to his knees. “Dear God, what’s going on? No one’s gonna believe us. They’ll probably say we killed Jim, if that goddamn maniac hasn’t taken over the world by tomorrow. And, oh Christ, Jim is gone, Gerry. Gerry? Are you okay?”
Gerry shook his head, his entire body racked with silent, hysterical giggles. He waved a shaky hand in the direction of the truck and the unsuspecting town,“D’ya think it knows it’s orange?”