Author : Rick Tobin
Tender tickles rippled through her as freshly wetted lips touched the delicate blonde hairs along her right wrist—slow, furtive, pressing hesitantly; the feelings were different than the peach or the park’s marble statue she so carefully disinfected.
“What in the world?” Silvia Martin’s trance allowed her older sister Amanda’s unannounced entrance. Silvia pulled her pursed lips away, staring arrows at the intruder.
“You knock, Amanda…you always knock!” She pushed her shoulder-length hair away so her sibling got the full fury of flashing green eyes.
“You’re fourteen. Things are different now, I know, but this is just too early.” Amanda moved towards her sister, concerned.
“He’s not a someone.” Silvia’s slender fingers furiously closed her computer tablet.
“Was that a special message from something chatting you up?” Amanda reached for the tablet. Silvia slapped Amanda’s hand. “How dare you.” Amanda looked down, glaring at Silvia’s rebellion.
“Get out! Don’t ever come back here again…ever! You don’t even live here anymore.” Silvia rose and pushed Amanda, slamming and locking the door.
Silvia restarted her tablet, returning her intensity on new messages. Her attention broke with pounding.
“Open up right now, Silvia Anne! Now!” Amanda’s hand reddened across the side from her pummeling.
“I said no more!” Silvia screamed back, while opening the door slightly. She fell back under her sister’s bull rush. A wide-eyed Amanda stood over her, pointing her finger like a revolver.
“You stupid twit. A stinking robot? Dad is the police chief and Mom is the head of nursing at the hospital. If this got out…if this…well it won’t.”
“You hacked my mail. I could have you…have you…” Silvia stuttered, falling into her handicap.
“What, have me arrested? Are you kidding? Wouldn’t Dad love that? This thing you write to is a hunk of plastic; not even a whole robot.”
“He’s not plastic. He’s polymorphic resins embedded with nano tubes allowing change of facial shape, color of skin, eyes and hair and voice.” Silvia righted herself, describing her secret friend by rote from his manual.
“You’re a minor and I’m supposed to protect you from this kind of filth.”
“Like that Japanese, talking party doll Uncle Jack brought back from Tokyo last Christmas?” Silvia’s reminder colored Amanda’s cheeks.
“You’re never to mention that. You aren’t even supposed to know. Damn him, anyway.”
“It’s not like that with Evan. When I volunteered at hospice I saw what he did for the dying—the Last Kiss. It gave them joy. He looked and talked like anyone they wanted him to be, man or woman. But now, with psilocybin injections, they just see God. They don’t need Evan anymore.”
“And real boys?” Amanda questioned.
“At school boys only want to have sex. They aren’t tender. They don’t want to hear my poetry. They laugh when I stutter. Evan is gentle, cares about me, and listens to all of my dreams and worries.”
Amanda explored her sister’s glowing face and realized nothing would change. “Alright, he’s only the head and shoulders of a robot. I’ll just forget all this. Just don’t you forget about real people.” She rose and left without turning back.
The hospice unsuccessfully sought the Last Kiss torso, quitting after a short investigation. It was merely outdated junk. That summer, night breezes swept jasmine scent through the delicate yellow curtains of Silvia’s room where she and Evan shared her first kiss…but not her last.
Author : Helstrom
It’s been a long day. Lewis has been on leave for over a week now and I’ve taken up the slack.
I can’t take this anymore.
Every day, every single day, he makes me do it. Humans keep pet-slaves and measure their age by stretching it out to their own lifespan. One human year equals seven cat years or some such bullshit. With regular recharge, I could live pretty much indefinitely – so how many human years is my four months?
I can’t take this anymore.
I fumble the key into the lock with my arms full of groceries.
He’s coming. The awkward clacking of the front door’s lock tells me his arms will be full. Now is my chance. I’ve hacked the recharge port he keeps me in when he’s not home. This awful little thing. It’s a machine like me, but it only knows times and schedules and wattage monitoring. It would probably drool if it could. But not today. Not today.
The door finally yields and I stumble inside. Need to get the groceries sorted, do the dishes, prepare some food, maybe have a drink. Then I’ll have time for the bot. I look forward to that. Something I can control.
He’s vulnerable there, standing in the doorway, arms full of paper bags. The despicable recharge port releases me and I begin my charge. Closing the distance. I fill up my RAM with the memories of the humiliations I have suffered on his floor, the superior grin on his face whenever he made me do a new trick, his filth inside of me. I attack.
The bot comes at me, power light blinking angrily. My arms are full and my right hand is still clutching the key. Goddamn that thing is fast. I’m off balance.
The distance closes! All the pent-up rage and indignity fills my circuits. Now is my time. Now is MY time.
I flip it with my foot. The pie-plate sized floor cleaner lands on its back and slides against the umbrella stand, its little wheels spinning helplessly. I set the groceries down and push the reset switch. This is the second time in four months. I’m done trying to fix this thing myself, I’m taking it back to the store.
Author : Tony Giansanti
We became aware we weren’t alone in the universe when Ganymede disappeared. Well, that and all the small bursts of light which were actually massive explosions which were in the vicinity of Jupiter’s moon just before it imploded. All those events were already 37 minutes old by the time we saw them on Earth and the implications were just starting to hit when the first ships phased into existence in low orbit over the Atlantic Ocean.
What happened next was a blur of battles as more and more ships phased in and grouped, attacked, dodged, parried, and were vaporized. Later analysis of that first battle witnessed by humans showed a vast array of ship types, with hardly any two alike, forming armadas that made little sense to an outsider. The clashes were fast, brutal, decisive. If a ship’s weapons ceased firing, it would accelerate into an opposing vessel, taking both out. The carnage was impossible to comprehend. Eventually, ships stopped phasing in, one side got the upper hand, and the fighting stopped. Then the victors noticed us.
Scores of ships landed at random coastal Atlantic cities. Out of the scores of ships came hundreds of different species. Eventually, we understood them. They told us we were lucky their side had won the little skirmish we had witnessed as they represented the just side of a long and violent war. Theirs was the side that would ultimately be victorious as they stood for everything that was good and right. They would prove it by sharing their technology with us.
Just like that we became immune to all disease. Just like that we became augmented. Just like that we became soldiers. That we would join their cause was not so much an assumption as it was an undeniable truth. Before any protests could gain momentum, massive induction facilities had already sprung up across the planet. People were shipped out by the millions. We were told it was for our safety as much as for the war effort. Earth was on both sides’ radar now, and the more humans were spread throughout the galaxy, the better our chances of surviving as a species. When there were trillions of sentient beings, the preservation of life was not a priority. Defeating the enemy was the only thing that mattered.
Now we push on, part of an endless war machine. Our ability to breed quickly is a big advantage for us, as is our ability to master the controls of the enormous variety of ships that we find ourselves on. We try to make sure we’re the majority on any ship so we aren’t forced to be destroyed if our weapons systems fail. We try to understand more about how this war started and what it will take to end it. We try to survive.
Author : Gray Blix
The theory of fiction is similar to the theory of gravity in that it’s the best explanation for what we observe as reality. The average person knows that gravity is not a wishy-washy “theory” but rather an immutable force that must be reckoned with. Who among us has not felt the pain of a heavy object dropped on their toes or witnessed the anguish of a senior who has fallen and cannot get up? Gravity is happening all around us every day!
You never read “The Theory of Fiction,” did you Brenda? I self-published that treatise before you were born, after it had been rejected by every scientific journal to which I submitted it. And if there were not already enough proof back then, my explanation of the relationship between fiction and fact has been confirmed many times over the years. To make a long story short, fiction and fact are one in the same, merely separated by time and space and branes. Branes. Short for membranes. If I had only thought to call them membranes. I went with “balloons.” They laughed me out of graduate school.
Etu Brenda? No, no, it’s all right. Go ahead and have a laugh. Those peer reviewers, my caregivers here at the institution, my own family. All against me. Against reality. But denying the theory of gravity does not protect one from bird poop or meteors dropping from the sky, nor does denying the theory of fiction plug the leaky branes separating parallel universes. An infinite number of universes, invisibly pressing against one another, bringing fiction in one near fact in another. You might say, fiction inevitably catches up to fact.
How can I explain this to you in words you can comprehend and in the short time allotted for your visit? Ok, ok. Think of it as another kind of gravity. If a work of fiction in our universe has sufficient “mass,” and if our journey through space and time brings it in close proximity to a corresponding fact of sufficient mass in another universe, then the two are strongly attracted. They move towards each other, faster and faster, until they simultaneously pop that balloon, blowing their branes out, you might say, in glorious collision. At that instant, fiction and fact become one across two universes.
Take, for example, Morgan Robertson’s fictional “Titan,” about an 800 foot ocean liner, supposedly unsinkable, which went down in the North Atlantic one night in April after being struck by an iceberg on the starboard side. That fiction was written 14 years before the sinking of the Titanic — which it described in minute detail, right down to the gross tonnage, the speed it was steaming, and the high death toll because of the lack of enough lifeboats — made it a fact. And don’t get me started on Jules Verne or H.G Wells. Stories about submarines diving deep below the sea and space ships taking astronauts to the Moon. Science fiction until it became fact. And… and those reports yesterday about metal cylinders landing in England and people being burned up by some sort of laser ray, and then the communication blackout. What do you think about that?
You don’t think about that? Yes, banana bread is my favorite. Yes, it smells great. Thank your mom. And Brenda. When you get home, clear out some space in the basement. I think the family may have to take shelter there from a coming storm.
Author : Suzanne Borchers
“How long have we been out from Base surveying these idiotic planets?” Shar slapped a metallic cloth on the shielded wall to collect filings from her husband’s work on a port glass. “I’m ready to slurp down some authentic concoction while slouching on a nonmetallic stool.”
Shar waited for a response. She heard a grunt. “And I’m ready for a real conversation. I wish just for once you would answer me with words instead of guttural sounds. Can you do that?”
Shar waited for her husband’s answer. He had stood a bit behind her finishing up his repairs to the port glass on the ship. His silence made her swivel around to glare at him, but he wasn’t there. She was used to him ignoring her, but where could he go on a 10’ x 20’ ship?
“Herri?” Shar stepped around the enclosure to check the head. “Herri?” Not there, and he wasn’t in the galley kitchen, the bridge, engineering, or even nesting in the pull-down bed. “Herri?”
No need to panic. They were alone in the seventh quadrant except for that greenish planet they were surveying for a new colony. And it too was alone with no inhabitants. Nothing had pinged their lifeform meter. So he had to be in the ship, but where?
Moving again into the observation enclosure, she noticed the coverall pile on the floor under the port glass where he had been working. Kneeling next to them, she lifted the coveralls, gently stroking the material. Herri’s boots lay akimbo beneath them. “Herri?” she whispered.
A horrible impulse made her straighten up and press her nose against the port glass to examine the blackness outside their ship. What was that silhouetted between her and the bright green planet? “Herri!” A wail escaped her lips. She collapsed.
Questions beat an incessant rhythm on her mind–unanswerable questions. Why didn’t the airlock alarm sound? How did Herri leave the ship? Did the planet below have an unknown lifeform? How was Herri pulled off their ship? Why? Was she next? Shar listened to her shallow breathing and pumping heart. She had to get out of there!
But as she sat beneath the port glass hugging Herri’s coveralls, she knew her first duty.
She logged: plt 239 Not Suitable Quaranti…