Author : Emily Stupar
I’m falling and I’m not sure when it started, or when it’s going to end. Although, I do have some theories.
Maybe I’m falling because I’m fulfilling a lifelong wish to go skydiving. There’s a bot instructor strapped to my back and all I can think is that I may as well have jumped out of a plane with a floppy disk in my hand for all the good it’ll do me.
Or maybe I’m a space explorer and I’m not falling but floating. Everyone is counting on me to get this sample so we’ll know if there’s any competition out there in the stars, or if it’s just us humans and whatever mindless bits of metal we scrap together.
Maybe I was driving down the Pacific Coast Highway and then I heard on the radio about that police officer who was slaughtered by a bot in his own home. Killed by his own property. And then I was so shocked by the sound of a human being siding with the tin can that I accidentally drove off into the ocean.
Maybe I jumped off the roof after finding my spouse with the android who was fixing our plumbing.
Or maybe it’s something a bit more metaphorical and I’m falling from grace. I’m falling out of favor with nature. Maybe I’m falling because the familiar ground has dropped out from beneath my feet one piece at a time, but so slowly that I just woke up one day and suddenly I didn’t recognize my own home anymore.
Maybe Mother Nature wasn’t my mother at all; she’s my landlady and she’s not happy that I’ve drifted so far from the terms of my lease. I’ve been evicted for allowing humans to push past the limit of what is good and natural, and now I’m falling headfirst onto the pavement.
Or maybe I know a secret about all these heaps of wires and electrical signals that are worming their way into every aspect of our lives. I see the true consequences of letting man think he is God, or letting a man-made machine think it could live. Maybe I know a vulnerable place and I have the materials to force the world to stop and see the truth. Maybe I’m falling because I strapped a bomb to my back and, next to all that delicate machinery, I launched myself into the air. For humanity.
I really can’t say for sure, but, as far as I know, I’m the only one whose falling. My entire race has lost their minds, opening their naïve hearts to the whispers of manipulative demons, and I’m not sure I have the stomach to watch. I’ve been falling ever since I realized I was the one who needed to save humans from themselves.
I’m falling and I just hope everyone is braced for my impact.
Author : Leif Hansen
Terra didn’t laugh. Not because I pushed my joke too far, as was typical, but because she suddenly realized what I was.
Within the few seconds it took for me to deliver my puerile punchline, her mind had grasped the meaning of my eyes’ incautious flicker from blue to gold, and she was up and running, running as fast and far as her legs would take her. Yet it was futile, she had come too close and would soon feel what she only briefly saw.
With a few bounds of my augmented legs I easily caught her and, despite her loud protests, tagged the indentation on the back of her neck, transferrering power. “You’re IT!” I declared as we burst into a pile of posthuman giggles on the warm summer grass.
“I’ll catch you later” she said before tessering, her eyes flickering gold before burying themselves beneath a beguiling brown.
Author : Bob Newbell
Consciousness returned slowly to Inderak and Wynep. Memory took a little longer but in short order the events that lead up to the present flashed back into recall: The malfunction with the hyperdrive. The failed attempt to enter orbit around the moon of the third planet in the alien star system. The violent turbulence as the ship entered the third planet’s atmosphere. And then…now.
“Are you alright?” Inderak asked.
“I’m not sure,” replied Wynep weakly. “What’s on top of me?”
“Nothing? I can’t stand up. I thought I was pinned underneath debris.” Wynep was lying face down on the deck of the bridge.
“Before we crashed, sensors indicated this planet has three times the gravity of homeworld.” Inderak was on his back. He pushed back against the deck with all four of his arms. He barely moved off the deck plate.
“Computer, status?” said Wynep. “Computer, respond!” The ship’s computer remained silent.
Inderak saw a straw-colored liquid dripping from various points in the overhead of the compartment. “There’s neural fluid leaking from the processor chamber,” he said. “The computer’s injured, possibly dead.”
“Then we’re probably not broadcasting a hyperwave beacon. No one knows where we are.”
Wynep managed to push herself up about a centimeter for a few seconds, long enough to turn her head so she faced Inderak. She saw that her wings were plastered to the deck, not that they’d be of any use in this gravity. “It feels like we’re moving.”
“We are. The ship is floating in an ocean of dihydrogen monoxide. Most of the planet’s surface is covered by it.”
“Well, of course it is,” said Wynep bitterly. “The Divinities wouldn’t settle for landing us on a world with three times normal gravity. We have to land in a sea of poison, too. I assume the atmosphere has no chlorine?”
“The air is mostly nitrogen and oxygen.”
Wynep uttered a series of curses that left no Divinity unblasphemed.
“The planet’s inhabited,” said Inderak. “Scanners showed numerous cities and there were at least several hundred artificial satellites in orbit.”
“The moon we were hoping to orbit was barren,” countered Wynep. “There was no sign of civilization on it. If the locals haven’t even colonized their own moon then they must be pretty primitive. I doubt they’d be of much help, even assuming they’re non-hostile.”
“You’re probably right,” conceded Inderak.
They were silent for a while. Breathing was difficult in the oppressive pull of gravity and talking made it worse.
“Maybe Navigation Command was still tracking us before we dropped out of hyperspace?” Wynep speculated.
“We’re probably done for even if they know exactly where we are,” Inderak responded matter-of-factly. “NavCom couldn’t send people down here. They’d be as incapacitated as we are. They’d have to send robots. And then what? Blast off the surface? Can you imagine the escape velocity for this planet? The acceleration would almost certainly kill us. They might rig up a space elevator, but that’s never been done on a planet with this much gravity. It would take Divinity knows how long to overcome the engineering problems, assuming they could be overcome at all. There’s only one thing Navigation Command could do to help us.”
“Blast us from orbit. Put us out of our misery. If there’s a NavCom ship on the way here, it’s mission isn’t rescue. It’s euthanasia.”
Author : David Atos
The man was sitting at Donald Thompson’s kitchen table when he got home, reading a file.
“Right on time, Mister Thompson.”
Donald jumped back against the wall in alarm.
“Who are you, and how the hell did you get into my apartment?” he shouted.
“I suppose the short answer is that I am a Time Agent, and I got here by time travel.”
“Technically, we’re supposed to call it the Quantum Entanglement C-P-T Modulation Transfer, but that’s quite a mouthful. Time travel.”
Donald let out a single barking laugh. “And I suppose you’re here because I’m going to become a horrible serial killer, and you’re going to stop me before I can claim my first victim?”
“Oh, no, Mister Thompson. Donald. Don, if I may? Quite the opposite. You’ve lived a life that is, overall, full of kindness. You’re not a criminal. And even if you were, I couldn’t come back here to kill you.” He shook his head, “No, Don, I’m here because you’re about to die.”
“That’s right, Don.” The man consulted the file and his watch. “In twelve minutes’ time, a small aneurysm in the motor cortex of your brain will rupture. Your downstairs neighbour will hear you fall and come up to investigate. The ambulance will take you to the hospital, but the doctors won’t be able to help you. You’ll persist in a vegetative state for five hundred twenty three days, sixteen hours, and thirty two minutes, then pass away. It’s all here in your file.” He slid the folder across the table towards Donald.
Donald snatched at the file. The front page was a cranial MRI. His name on it, and a date two days from now. In the middle of the image was an ugly solid white stain. Donald sat heavily down on the chair opposite the intruder.
“So, are you here to save me, then?”
The man in the white coat smiled ruefully. “I am truly sorry, Don. I’m not here for that either. Time is . . . not robust. It cannot heal changes. The ripples, the perturbations, they expand exponentially. We cannot kill those who deserve to die, nor can we save those who deserve to live.”
“You can’t kill people, you can’t save people. Why are you even here?”
The Time Agent stood up, and began pacing. “All that we can do, Don, is offer . . . small mercies. An extra styrette of morphine for the soldier bleeding out on the battlefield. A few words of love carried from a husband to his dying wife. We help — where we can. For you, we can offer . . . oblivion.” He reached into the pocket of his lab coat and pulled out a single clear capsule, filled with tiny red and white balls.
“Oblivion?” asked Donald, confusion in his voice.
“Yes, Don. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. The ruptured aneurysm destroys your motor cortex, but the rest of your brain remains completely undamaged. You remain fully aware for all five hundred twenty three days, sixteen hours, and thirty two minutes. And, again, I’m sorry, in significant pain the entire time.”
“But . . . but, you said you can’t kill me either.”
“No, Don. We can’t. This pill,” he holds up the capsule, “is nothing more than a measured dose of Aspirin. A blood thinner. If you take this pill, the bleeding in your brain will be ever so slightly worse. Not only will your motor cortex be destroyed, there will also be irreparable damage to your cerebrum. Your body will continue to live, but your consciousness, your sense of self, that will be gone the instant you drop to the floor in,” he glances again at his watch, “seven and one-half minutes.”
“So, that’s the choice you’re giving me? Take this pill, and instead of a year and a half of agony, I just pop straight off to Heaven?”
The man in the white coat laughed. “Oh, Don! If only we could answer that question for you. For all of our advances, we still don’t know what happens to the consciousness, to the soul, after death. A dozen dozen religions argue just as passionately about that in the future as they do now. I can’t offer you any assurances, Don. I can only offer you a chance to avoid suffering.”
Donald slammed the file sitting in front of him and stood up, pointing an accusatory finger at the stranger. “Why should I believe you at all? Huh? You’re just some guy who got into my apartment somehow!”
“Well, it’s a bit like Pascal’s wager, isn’t it?” replied the stranger. “If I’m lying, all you’ve done is taken some painkillers. But if I’m telling the truth . . . Look, I’ll even make it simpler. If you don’t trust this pill,” he placed the capsule on the table, “you need to take two extra strength Aspirins. But you’ll have to hurry. You are running out of time.”
Donald slumped down into the chair at his kitchen table again. He stared mutely at the file in front of him. Slowly, he reached out and picked up the capsule.
The stranger walked around the table and sat next to Donald, putting a hand on his shoulder. “I can’t promise you much, Don. But I can promise you this: You won’t die alone.”
Donald lifted the capsule for a closer look, and inspected the tiny printing on the side. Two words, in simple, black lettering:
Author : Connor Harbison
The old man watched red-orange dust rise from the trail. Perks of living up on this promontory, only one way to come in. He filled his pipe again and leaned back in the rocking chair. The visitor would be here soon enough.
The visitor dismounted his hoverbike and strode up to the porch. He pulled off the rebreather and pushed the goggles away from his eyes before addressing the old man.
“Are you Packard?”
“Might be. Who’s asking?”
“I represent the board of Maxicorp United.”
“Hm.” Packard recognized the logo, though back in is day the company didn’t have the scratch to send someone all the way out here. Part of the reason he’d picked this planet.
“Yes, it seems there was an irregularity when you abruptly left the company. Twenty years ago, it says. A sizable chunk of money disappeared right around the time you quit.”
“Do I look like I have a ‘sizable chunk of money’ to you?”
“Well, no, not really. But our intelligence division tracked you down to this planet. Your homestead is the only one I found on this continent.”
“Intelligence division? Lordy, my old bosses have been busy. You seem like a nice kid, so I won’t waste your time.” The visitor’s face lit up.
“So you’ll tell me what happened to the money? I can file the report right away and…”
“There’s no money left, son.”
“I don’t understand. What did you do with it?”
“Look around you. I made a ‘sizable’ real estate purchase.”
“Now you’re catching on. Reminded me of Mars, where I grew up. Plus it was far away from the likes of you. At least it used to be.”
“Maxicorp United will have to repossess this planet, in addition to anything else you may have purchased with the stolen funds.”
“I’m sorry, what? If you don’t surrender any property that rightfully belongs to Maxicorp United, we will be forced to take drastic measures.”
“Hm.” Packard was getting tired. He wasn’t young like he used to be. This visitor was boring him. Packard slowly reached into his pocket and clicked a button on a remote. Seconds later there was only a pile of ash where the visitor had stood.
A flock of battle drones rose around the house, waiting for their next instructions. Real estate wasn’t the only thing Packard had bought. He looked forward to the next visit from the company.