Coup

Author : Cesium

Andelie stands atop the Fisher Building, gazing across miles of open air at the Monolith. It is formally the Colonial Administrative Headquarters, but it is always called the Monolith. Its imposing black form towers over the rest of the city. Fisher is the only building that comes close.

The Fisher Building is nominally the future corporate offices of Fisher Insurance, an immensely profitable and perfectly unremarkable corporation of which Andelie is also nominally an employee. It has risen story by story into the sky over the past decade. It is now only weeks from its official opening. Its unofficial opening will come significantly sooner.

Andelie adjusts her goggles, zooms in on the base of the tower. The motorcade is just pulling past lines of rippling flags into the entrance. They are later than she expected, but not behind schedule. The schedule is theirs. Andelie can afford to wait.

A scudding wisp of cloud obscures her sight for a moment. She looks away, touches a finger to her phone. The countdown starts.

Beneath her feet, illicit machinery moves into position. Industrial-grade fabbers complete the final stages of years of preparation. Surplus construction materials left deliberately unrecycled in the basements are covertly loaded onto high-speed lifts.

Careful deceptions and generous bribes have kept the Fisher Building’s true purpose hidden since its inception. The Monolith is well defended against terrorist attacks and armed siege alike. To decapitate the irredeemably corrupt government in an appropriately spectacular fashion requires a more innovative approach.

The clock ticks down to zero.

Down the face of the building, windows lift open and retract. Rail cannons extend, locking into position. The first salvo comprises kinetic and incendiary shells, fabricated from innocuous raw materials. Wind speeds and atmospheric conditions are known; angles and tolerances have been calculated precisely. Andelie watches the guns fire, perfectly synchronized.

The side of the Monolith bursts into plumes of dust and flame. Automatic turrets are already returning fire, but the Fisher Building’s active and passive defenses, which are overengineered for mere earthquakes and storms, adequately shield it. The architects of the Monolith, however, did not anticipate that it might face a skyscraper bristling with hostile guns.

Flying drones approach, but veer away before coming into range. The automated safeguards against colliding with tall structures are hardcoded even into military aircraft. They can be overridden, but it will take time.

The second salvo of explosive rounds shatters the weakened skeleton of the lower floors. The Monolith sways, bleeding acrid smoke, then collapses in on itself with an elegant rapidity. A cloud of dust enfolds its base and blossoms out through the city.

Just like that, it’s over. Time has run out.

The ultimatum to the armed forces, Andelie knows, has already been broadcast. She does not expect significant resistance. The weapon she stands upon should be intimidation enough. “Good work,” she says into her phone. A new age has begun, she thinks.

A stiff breeze ruffles her clothes and exposes the ruined stump of the Monolith. It was the Colonial Administrative Headquarters, but now it is only the grave of the old regime. The Fisher Building’s imposing silver form towers over the rest of the city. No other building comes close.

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Little Plastic Baggie

Author : Dan Whitley

“What is this?” Marc demanded, shaking a little plastic baggie in front of his son’s face. “This better not be what I think it is.”

“What, it’s not like you didn’t do that sort of thing when you were my age,” Ralph shot back. “Besides, they’re not even mine, they’re Jake’s.”

Marc scoffed. “’They’re Jake’s,’” he mimicked. “That little shit’s been nothing but trouble since you met him.”

“Don’t talk about my friends that way!”

“You might as well forget about him anyway, son, you’re leaving for OMU in six weeks as it is.”

“Y’know maybe I don’t want to go to Mars, Dad,” Ralph said, his voice picking up into a yell. “Maybe I’d rather do nothing with my life, you ever think about that?”

“I didn’t serve 14 years in the Federation just so my son could be a junkie and a welfare leech!”

“Just watch me!” Ralph grabbed the baggie out of his dad’s hand and started to shake it himself. “Blah blah ’14 years,’ like I haven’t heard that one before.”

Marc wrenched the baggie away from Ralph, shouting, “Oh no you don’t!” and shoving Ralph away. “You’re going to shape up, mister. And you’re going to college. And that’s final!”

“Yeah, ok,” Ralph mocked, folding his arms defiantly. Marc finally boiled over and took a swing at Ralph, who ducked under it with ease. Ralph could move faster than Marc could ever hope to.

Marc started to storm out of the room. “Don’t think this is the end of this!”

Ralph was already dialing down, queuing up some music. “Whatever, old man.” The lights in his eyes dimmed and Ralph’s whole body went halfway limp.

“He’s really gonna get it later,” Marc said, as much to himself as to his wife Terry, who’d been standing just behind him in Ralph’s room during the whole argument. He dropped the baggie onto the dinner table in disgust and fell into a chair.

“Marc,” Terry said, standing across from her husband, trying to remain collected, “you really shouldn’t be so hard on the boy. One way or another, he’s gonna leave the house soon, and you’re gonna regret this rift you’ve created between the two of you.”

“I shouldn’t have to do this in the first place,” Marc said, still quite livid. “But no, you had to insist on adopting a synth, didn’t you? With all their damn electronic, self-repairing parts, because you couldn’t deal with a normal child and all their normal injuries. Now this happens This-”

Terry laid one right across Marc’s face and stormed out of the kitchen, her face contorted in hurt anger. Marc turned away, did not watch her go. His eye caught the baggie on the table and his rage flashed once more. He swore under his breath, snatched up the bag of little magnets and dashed them against the wall.

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Yes, I Am

Author : Per Wiger

He used knock-knock jokes like cadence calls, keeping one foot moving ahead of the other as the two of us, road-worn travelers shuffled passed Victory station on the old blue line.

“Knock-knock,” his words cut through air choked with the detritus of disuse as he danced ahead of me on what had once been the deadly third rail, just to prove that he could.

“Who’s there?” my voice was phlegmy and distant in my own ears, toneless and mechanical, but it was a voice and that’s more than most people could still claim, these days.

“Banana.” it was this one again, he must be getting tired.

“Banana who?” left foot step, right foot step, wince as the thin spot on the soul of my boot strikes something in the dark, left foot step.

“Knock-knock,” we’re almost there, I didn’t need him anymore, not really, I was behind him and covered by darkness. There was only one way to shut him up, but I had done worse…

“Who’s there?” I have some honor left, he’s helped me this far, and that’s not nothing.

“Banana,” the tunnel is an old one, like all those that are still usable, brick arches weathered the blasts better than cheap steel beams, but it’s not as old as the joke feels now and much more beautiful.

“Banana who?” the rail map I’d passed so many times on the walls played itself forward in my head; Victory station, Denmark station, Providence, then a sprint through the lights still powered by some ancient back up generator to the mouth of the orange line, then Patriot, Loyalty, and out at Triumph station. If my information was good there was a club there, called the Kellar. I haven’t sung since the bombs dropped, not for an audience at least, but I dropped that stubborn five pounds…

“Knock-knock,” God let it be over.

“Who’s there?” The orange line was much newer, and commensurately more difficult to navigate, but it was still safer than trying the surface. Cooler too, in more ways than one.

“Banana,” we did see light for the first time in I don’t know how long and I can’t complain about that.

“Banana who?” Close now, up the stairs, two at a time despite our fatigue. Enter the lobby guns drawn, cover each other like we’ve gotten so used to doing, one more flight of stairs, one more arch.

“Knock-knock,” a hundred feet from our goal, if my information is right, and I damn near killed him anyway. I took a deep breath instead.

“Who’s there?”

“Orange,” He was grinning like a mad-man, the mousy man, boy really, I’d picked up outside of Chicago. For the first time I noticed the fever behind his ever-present grin, and the fear.

“Orange who?”

“Orange you glad I didn’t say banana?” Even he lacked the gall to laugh. We opened the doors as one.

The flickering neon sign across the road was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen, the lights in the security windows a close second, and I rushed across the street only to find myself alone, I turned back to see him standing in the mouth of the train station, tears streaming down his face.

“What’s your name?” He called to me.

“Sally,” I replied with a wink, and, devil be damned, I continued, “Sally Bowles.”

“Still making jokes,” I heard him murmur, as he turned away, and slipped back into the tunnels.

 

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Paying Dress-Up

Author : Evan Kayne

“Look, this is ridiculous. I didn’t profit from making and then wearing my Mikey Moose costume for Halloween last year. I went to a party then after we went out to a bar. I wasn’t saying I was the real Mikey. It was just me.” Del Rogers pointed back at himself.

“Mr. Rogers, as the letter discussed, due to changes made recently to International Copyright and Trademark laws, we control all images of Mikey Moose…” Daniel Pullam, the lawyer for Nisdey Studios, clicked on his e-tablet. An electronic image of a letter appeared in mid-air between the two men. The letter expanded to twice its size and the relevant paragraphs became highlighted, copied themselves and drifted down to the table in front of Del, like two leaves.

“As you see, the law covers ALL images. Had you purchased one of the official Mikey Moose Nisdey Studios costumes, you would be covered. Had your costume been constructed in such a way as to indicate it was a parody, you would be exempted.” Daniel tapped on his tablet and a 3D video display of Del dressed as Mikey Moose appeared on the table and started dancing.

“Your costume,” Daniel spoke as the dancing Mikey evaporated back into the tablet, “-was an exceptional imitation of the real costume actors wear at Mikey-World. And therefore subject to copyright infringement and all penalties therein.”

Del was quiet as he stared down at the tabletop, like a chastened child. Finally, he spoke: “Now what? Are you going to sue me for all I’ve got?”

At this Daniel put on a smile he hoped was sincere but not too creepy. “Mr. Rogers, when dealing with individuals, Nisdey Studios and Mikey-World Incorporated prefer to be…flexible.” Daniel reached down below the table and pulled up a large suitcase. He placed it on the table, opened it, and pulled out a costume that looked remarkably like a cartoon fish mixed with the body of a businessman. He hoped the folks in the Costuming department were accurate in guessing Del’s body shape and height.

“Now, as Halloween is coming up this year, then Christmas after that, you’ve no doubt heard about our new upcoming family film, ‘The Incredible Mr. Fish…’”

 

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Unconditional

Author : Jonas David

Private Connor had been to brothels plenty of times on leave, but he’d never bothered to talk to any of the units before. Usually you gave the clerk your account, selected your model, got your rocks off and left. Done deal. But somehow this one had got in his head, and if he was paying he figured he’d get his curiosity satisfied along with his other urges.

“So, did you like it?” He said as he pulled on his pants, sweat cooling on his brow.

“Of course, couldn’t you tell?” She brushed curled brunette hair away from her pale breasts.

“Yeah, but aren’t you, uhh, programmed that way?”

“I’m programmed to enjoy making you happy.”

“Well, what if I enjoy smacking you around?”

“Oh, but I know you don’t.” She cooed with a wink. It was true; his mind cringed at the thought of hitting her.

“But some guys must like it.” Connor persisted. “What then?”

“Well then I have to hide my pleasure. They like to see fear in my eyes, so I show it. But I just love seeing them so happy, so turned on.” She let out a sigh. “That look in their eyes as they knock me about is just so cute!” She knew just how to say it, he realized, to make him not worry for her. Even now, after he had finished his business, she had his feelings in mind.

“Leave with me.” He blurted. “Come travel with me, just us.”

“Oh honey, I can’t”

“Why?” He couldn’t hide his disappointment.

“Oh no, sweety, don’t take it personally. I’m just not programmed to be with one man.”

Hours later as his ship launched from the station, he wondered still. How did she know that was just the right thing to say?

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