Author : Tamara Rogers
They gave me a million eyes. Well, not a million, more like a terra-billion, a bajillionzillion. All x to the power z equals I want it I see it.
Excuse me if I’m not too precise, there’s buzzes coming in and network trails running through. Dope data distraction.
Take the details of my promotion. You could read it if you like but it’s all clauses and multipoints and corporate trash. The upshot is that my work on Animal Farm Mark 4: Kids’ Revolt was just too fucking good. I ran it smoother than if I was taking candy from a baby. It was a bit harder when they’d activate the RattleBattleTM weapons but that only usually happened at level 4 and mostly they just stuck to the kindergarten stages talking weed and dates and shit.
But this is something else.
<HTTP ERROR 400: Bad Request>
Ignore that, just glitching. You know, first day ripples spreading out, settling in.
Where was I?
That’s it. It was all toddler play, pissing about monitoring kids and their pumped up avis, throwing my weight around in their digital playground. This is just something else. You should have seen this guy just then; paging through the usual facetime porn they all go for, then he only goes and gets his ferrets out. Bloody hell, I don’t think they liked it. Cardboard tube Armageddon.
<HTTP ERROR 404: Not Found>
Tell me – what would you do if you were everywhere? Cos that is what it’s like. All the tentacles of the world, they’re all right here – hardwired fingers dripping into my brain, all hot and sticky and delicious.
<HTTP ERROR 403: Forbidden>
Of course, this is technically probation, but, you know, fuck that – how can you be on probation when you’re the one in charge of the grid? I make the rules. I am the rules.
Jesus, this is awesome. You should be here, you should be me – get to see it all, take it in. But, hey, there’s only one of me and it’s fucking busy.
<HTTP ERROR 429: Too Many Requests>
It’s coming in quick now. Faster, harder. I’ll tell you more but, hang it, I’ve gotta see this… There’s a woman in China and her voice is leaking through like it’s pure fucking silk… There’s a kid in Devon and he fancies himself a crackhack. He’s sending out reams of cover-emails that ain’t even coming close to hiding his bandwidth Ponzi scheme… There’s a guy in Belize and he’s running sermons and preaching his church, making noise over the web and calling himself God.
I squeeze down on his network supply, watch his face flicker into nothingness.
I turn him to black.
Cos he’s wrong. He can’t be God.
Cos I am.
<HTTP ERROR 418: I’m a Teapot>
Author : Jackson Fitzjames
Anonymous trespassing isn’t very easy in a surveillance state. Or, at least, that’s what they want you to think.
The rocketbike is juddering along between my legs in a way that’s going to chafe soon. If I get any more growth spurts, I’m not going to fit on it any more, and then we’ll have to build some new transport.
You see, the Powers That Be aren’t very good at thinking up new things. This is part of their appeal- they’ve already figured out how people are liable to rebel, and they have countertactics for everything. If someone tries to infiltrate them, they’ll know even if all of the passwords have been figured out. They can turn on a dime in a thousand critical ways, and restructure themselves even if there are only a few cells of them left, like a horrible disease.
However, this is also their undoing. Some of us, the older ones, just roll dice and use self-made random number generators to pick their actions, which starts producing glitches in the system. Some of us, however, are a bit more direct.
The rocketbike is a bike with a lot of propulsion systems attached to it. Nothing fancy, not like the jetpacks that a few people have come up with. They’re clunky and work with roughly the same physics as our weapons of the week, modified potato guns. The guns aren’t altered, because that would be too obvious- the potatos are just stuffed with explosives.
The Powers That Be can see all rooftop activity using sensors built into their surfaces, they can track all road movement with basic cameras stuck to the building and the odd checkpoint, and they can track rogue helicopters with long-distance radar. They don’t bother to look for teenagers reckless enough to stick propulsion technology (and occasionally, hoses) to a bunch of scrapped bikes and start flying through windows. Add some construction paper masks and you’re set.
Speaking of that, here’s the building we’re breaking into tonight. Straight ahead, it’s nothing but glass, wood, and juicy, juicy insides.
I put the pedal to the metal, and let come what may.
Author : RM Dooley
The rogue tampons rolling across the trunk floor and abandoned high heel tell me it’s a girl’s car. Probably this girl’s car.
I can’t move much. Duct tape binds her hands, feet, and stretches over her mouth. The taillight is kicked out and the flashlight next to her flickers in and out of life. She must have tried to get attention before I took control. I doubt she woke up in time for it to do any good. No glow from street lamp or car light slips in through the break, already too far down an empty back road.
Whatever drug he used still pumps through her, giving me a secondary disconnected dizziness. The throbbing head, a physical blow rather than chemical, registers to me more like radio static than actual pain.
The car stops gliding and begins a jolting trundle down an unpaved road.
Dammit. I bang her head against the trunk’s floor. I’d scream if I could. How far away can the driver be? Four, five feet difference in where my consciousness landed? If I’d taken him, she would make it.
I could’ve turned the car back around. Straight to a police station. I could’ve saved her.
I can’t cry. My body is at least twenty miles away, safely slumped across my couch. So she cries for me, hot angry tears over the five feet that killed her.
Not like I can aim. The mind wanders where it will. I should consider myself lucky I found her, working off a name and face until I latched on to one. Desperation more than anything let me find her, mine drawn to hers.
The crunching gravel goes quiet. Her heart thuds as the car door opens and shuts. She’s not aware and I keep my hold. Neuroimaging shows that while I’m in control the host’s brain functions as if in a very deep sleep, near comatose. She won’t know, won’t feel. And I can at least get a look at his face.
He opens the trunk and smiles down at her. At me. Clean shaven, early thirties. Even in the dark I know he’s handsome. Dark cropped hair, straight nose, hungry blue eyes. I carve his face into memory to bring back to my body.
I glare up at him. You’re dead asshole
I won’t report him to the police. No facial composite, no falsifying witness reports so the courts will believe how he was tracked down. Not this one. This is going to be personal. I have his face and I’ll share a memory. That’s enough for a wandering mind like mine to eventually track him down with.
He picks her up, almost lovingly until I start to fight. To me, the breaking nose feels like buzzing discomfort.
Whatever he does, I’m not letting go. And he’s not done with the ritual. One he carries out with disturbing efficiency.
But I won’t let go. She doesn’t have to know this. Let her last memory be whatever final prayer she clung to; another driver would notice bound hands waving out from the trunk. Someone would find her. Save her. She doesn’t have to know the climax to his gentle kiss, the pretty practiced lies he whispered to lure her away.
I’ll leave when she does. The last cut that bleeds us from her body. I can’t save her, but I can spare her. No one should have to experience this.
I would know.
Author : Peter R Jennings
“It’s not going to work, is it”? Gentry gasped out between huge, sucking breaths. He was right next to me so I was getting his panic in stereo through my earphones. The bright, tight lines of lasers and crumping explosions flashed and strobed the night sky above the crater. This was taking too long. Sweat was making my enhancement goggles and my fingers inside the slim gloves slippery so I snarled up at him.
“No, it may not and then we die, OK? Now, shut up”! Even though he towered above me he shrunk back as though more frightened of me than the Skarenji, his young face pushed into cherubic folds by the confines of his power armour. The Tandem masters tended to be a little chubby like the wheel-chair bound. I would have thought the adrenalin shots that were being thumped into them by the field controllers would burn it off. Hell, I could use a pick me up right about now.
“BOOMERANG”! shrieked Gentry a second before he bull-rushed me to the ground. The sizzling ‘wop-wop’ noise dopplered and bang! The white flash was followed by a hail of shrapnel and half the crater collapsing a few feet from us. Gentry’s arms were braced above me so that the weight of his armour, (augmented as it was with weapon pods, jump pack, ammunition and shield/stealth generators), would not crush me beneath him,
“Sir! Sargent Janus, you one hundred”? Gentry was yelling into my face. Damn it, I think the tandem harness on his chest had cracked my jaw. I threw a thumbs up between us and into his face. Grinning, he leapt to his feet. Scrambling back to the pillar of steel I plunged my hands back into the circuitry. The boomerang’s ordnance was anti-personnel so little damage was done to the metal structure. Alright, I just need to bypass the B-line and we are back in business. Forty five seconds maybe a minute.
“I’m getting the Fifty up” Gentry panted as a he palmed the command into his wrist pad. A cylinder rose, whirring, from his back and reaching back he unclipped it with practiced ease. He was battle calm now and that was good. Weird how he got steadier as things got worse. I think I was the opposite.
“They’ll know we are here” I said, looking at him whilst I reached for the impact welder on my belt.
“Uh sir, I think they may know already” Sliding the bolt on the side of the cylinder he braced to lob it over the trench.
“Gentry” I called to get him to glance at me and I gestured with my head back towards where he had covered me with his armoured body.
“Thanks, man” I said simply.
“No problem, Sir. Hurry up” He tossed the Fifty over the crater wall and all hell erupted over our heads as the staccato blasting of the fifty was matched with red flashes lighting up the drifting smoke above. Gentry’s face plate snapped shut and he levitated upwards until he was level with the rim. His repeater thumped against his shoulder as he kept up a steady rate of fire.
“100 metres…closing” his voice was in my ear as the B-line finally thrummed into life. I crashed the hard-plate shut. The War-bot rose smoothly to his feet, raised his fist and fired rapidly towards the horizon.
“Thank-you, sir” boomed the mechanical monster in his demonic voice as he exited the crater, blasting the advancing Skarenji.
“TECH-SUPPORT”! Bellowed another War-bots rasping, dying, voice from a different sector of the field.
Author : Elijah Goering
Justin Perdan sat at communication center of mankind’s first interstellar spaceship. The Earth Ship Endurance was truly massive, containing within it tens of thousands of people and the systems to keep them alive and comfortable for centuries. It was the first manned ship ever to leave to solar system, the greatest accomplishment in the history of mankind, and Justin controlled the connection with Earth.
His wife thought nothing of it. She didn’t understand the responsibility that his job carried. If anything were to go wrong with the link to Earth, Justin would be there to fix it. There was always at least one person on duty at the communication center in case of emergency, but usually not more than one, and for 6 hours out of each day that person was Justin. In those 6 hours, Justin thought, he was the most important person on the Endurance, possibly in all of mankind, because he protected the link between the Earth and the stars.
These were the thoughts going through Justin’s head when he heard it.
BEEP BEEP BEEP.
BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP.
BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP.
Confusion turned to pure joy as he counted. 1,2,3,5,7,11,13,17,19. Suddenly Justin broke out of his trance and scrambled for the computer. Within seconds he was looking at a small dot on the computer screen. It wasn’t really there of course, his telescope couldn’t see the ship hundreds of AU away, but the computer said that that was the origin of the message.
Doubt nagged at him. Could he be sure it wasn’t just another object in the Oort cloud, half a light year from Earth? He waited for a pause and counted. 37. No, this definitely wasn’t natural. Nothing but intelligence could produce the sequence of prime numbers. He sat back and listened, consumed by pure ecstasy. 41, 43, 47.
Suddenly the solar system seemed like an interesting place again. In a few years a mission would be sent out to make contact. The alien ship would be brought to Earth. Think of the knowledge to be gained, the exchange of culture with a completely alien intelligence. But it wasn’t for Justin. He was aboard the Earth Ship Endurance, shooting away from home at 4% of the speed of light. The transmission continued and Justin caught it again. 59. 61.
Then silence. Justin could feel the pressure of the air on his skin, could feel the blood pounding in his ears. Could he have imagined it? If it was real the computer should have recorded it but…
BEEP BEEP BEEP.
BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP.
BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP.