Disintegration is Easy

Author: Matthew Ferguson

Earth 106 AB (2077 AD) – Blamazon Prison #654

Hamish, an older man, and Janie, a young woman, wait in their cell for lunch.

“Eat your bleep and lament your bleep of robotic bleep”, intones the robotic jailer. The robot deposits two trays of grey food into the cell and rolls away.

Hamish picks up both trays and hands one to Janie.

“So why are you in here?” Hamish asks, as he sits on his side of the cell.

“They thought I wanted to join the resistance”, replies Janie.

Silence.

“Well, did you?”

“Nah, I was looking for renaissance paintings on Blamazon, when brime drones smashed into my apartment and sentenced me to life in Neon Bust’s martian manual labour force”.

“Wow, but why did they think you wanted to join the resistance?”

“I misspelt renaissance”, replies Janie.

They eat in silence for a few moments before Janie asks Hamish, “So how’d you end up here?”

“Similar story really. I posted on Breadit that Blamazon Brime wasn’t worth $120, and I was going to cancel it today.”

“Bleep, they’re really making it hard to cancel these days”, replies Janie.

Silence regains its foothold in the cell as they continue to eat lunch.

A robot jailer rolls up to the cell bars, “Bleep you inmates, you’re gonna suck my bleep bleep”, and rolls away.

“You know it’s so weird they keep bleeping rather than talking”, says Janie

“You’ll get it when you’re older”, replies Hamish.

They finish lunch. Janie takes both trays and slides them out of the cell. Turning theatrically to Hamish, “You know I really can’t stand this food, I need three thousand calories a day to keep up these guns”, as Janie flexes her arms.

A robot jailer rolls up to the cell door at high speed. “Inmate Janie are you saying you’ve got a gun?”

Eventually, after a substantial awkward silence, the robotic jailer rolls away.

Janie, exasperated, sits on her side of the cell and says, “This whole setup is so 1984.”

“You know I heard one in three people haven’t read 1984”, replies Hamish.

Both characters look at the fourth wall.

“It’s fine. I know a trick to getting out of here”, says Hamish. Then clearing his throat, he begins talking in excessively loud theatrical whispers, “I believe billionaires are job creators and shouldn’t pay tax”. The sound of robot tracks starts to slowly approach the cell.

Hamish points to Janie, “Oh, I get it… I’m gonna buy so much Nesla stock when I get out”, says Jaine with her stage voice. Hamish then adding “Nelsa to the moon!”. Tracks start moving away from the cell. They must be Blamazon review bots, Hamish mutters.

Janie leaps to the cell door and shouts through the bars, “Blamazon brime is brilliant, five stars, its original video content isn’t the height of mediocrity, it’s definitely not simple stories cut with ridiculous amounts of landscape and slow-motion shots to stretch content out, in a vain attempt to make the audience feel like they are getting value for money”.

At this point, two Blamazon robots rush to the cell door, crashing into it and exploding, destroying the cell door and themselves. “Bleep-ing Boggle maps”, mutters Hamish as they both leap over the burning robotic remains.

Turning and running down a corridor marked ‘Exit’, the cellmates find a dead end. Robotic jailers bleep insults at them as they close in and block retreat. Raising their lasers rifles against the cellmates. Jaine closes her eyes, obviously afraid.

Hamish smiles, “Relax kid, disintegration is easy, comedy is hard”.

This is London Calling

Author: Phil Temples

“Centre for Metropolitan History,” Ross Livingston speaking.”

The youthful historian answered his desk phone with all of the authority he could muster given the fact it was only his second day on the job at the prestigious institution, situated in Senate House at the University of London in Bloomsbury.

There was a brief burst of static on the line. The quality of the line was quite poor and Livingston assumed that he was receiving an international call from a third-world country. He repeated his greeting once more. Finally, after a considerable delay, an echoic voice responded.

“Is this… is this Sir Ross?”

“I beg your pardon?”

/He thinks I’m knighted? Sidney must have set someone up to prank me./

This is Dr. Ross Livingston. How may I help you?”

“Yes—yes, quite right. Hello! I’m wondering if you might be of assistance. We’re looking for information about a certain political figure, a City councillor who served the constituents of Ward 5. Her name was Ms. Ruth Whitley.”

“Whitley… Whitley… let me see…”

As Livingston typed the name into the search field of his computer, another burst of static came across the line. It made him even more curious to know where the party was calling from. The accent belonging to the voice on the other end didn’t sound like that of a foreigner; instead, it was crisp, proper English diction spoken by someone of upper-class stature. It also contained a slight lilt that he couldn’t quite identify.

“I’m very sorry, sir. I can’t seem to find any reference to a politician by that surname. Can you tell me the approximate dates she served in government?”
“Certainly. It would have been sometime between February 2024 to October 2027.”

Livingston was starting to get annoyed.

“Look, did my roommate Sidney Harris put you up to this?”

“Um. Excuse me, Sir Ross… I mean… Dr. Livingston. I don’t know this Sidney Harris person. You’ll have to forgive me. Ah… say, what date are you at right now?”

“Look, I’m beginning to… Okay, I’ll play along. It’s November 2, 2021.”

There was a momentary pause on the other end of the line.

“Oh. I’m terribly sorry! You see, most of the records of London’s governance were lost in the data crash of 2128 and I thought that someone from your period might be able to… Well, I guess I made a wee bit of a mistake. This was supposed to be a call placed to Sir Ross Livingston in the year 2065. Please—just forget all about our little conversation, okay? I’ll call the other you in forty-four years. But if I may say, Sir Ross, it’s a genuine honor! Your distinguished monographs on time-history dilation are—or rather, will—become standard reading for generations of researchers. Cheers.”

Mesh

Author: Rick Tobin

Look at your moon, or so you call it. So much the lie. It isn’t yours. It never was, and worse, it is the trap, detaining me against my will.

I am multi-dimensional. I traveled freely through the galaxy, using the unusual magnetic fields of this blue ball, your home, as a navigational aid, like a buoy. Then your predecessors came, claiming this wonder as theirs. Like bridge trolls, they demanded tolls for those voyaging past this marker. If refused, they changed its vibration, obstructing safe routes, leaving a resistant explorer floating in a swamp of twisting energies and plasmas for eternity.

Wars broke out as easily as a cold virus, as wars are apt to in all of space. Conflicts are nothing new. Your kind didn’t create violence. You merely absorbed it into your thin DNA. Your Ancient One built an orbiting station, managing the planet’s rotation, limiting its access at changing angles of rotation, which they controlled. They built this gigantic space megalithic you call the Moon and then taught you, cave dwellers, to worship it, its movement, with a single shining face, while hiding their activities on the dark side within their constructed sphere. Your governments know all of this. The facts of this truth are forbidden to you.

Many races resisted the toll takers, but with consequences. I know. I am one, stuck in a time-loop between this reality and my origins. My race has no physical form in your three-dimensional existence. I merely needed your magnetic fields as I projected my consciousness through this quadrant, just as you use GPS to plot a course. Your progenitors put a web of high-energy entrapment between these two spheres. I struggled, unable to warn others, watching them perish and vaporize, striking blindly into fatal vibrations. Eventually, a consortium of forces defeated these evil interlopers, but I, a victim of war, exist immortal, alone, and lost near the Earth in a timeless void.

On rare occasions, especially during a full moon, a winding snake of blue plasma flashes from the Moon toward Earth, invisible to your human eyes, striking my trapped consciousness, allowing me to transform, if only for a few hours, by entering lower physical life forms. Some of your investigators seek my entrapment, calling me a skinwalker. If I enter an animal, it is my only brief escape from the spectrum of electromagnetic mesh binding me helplessly isolated. I cause no harm, but you fear me, nonetheless, in your continuing ignorance.

You do not know your own history, but now you know mine. Be aware when a bat turns in an odd pattern, a barn owl flies low, or a solitary wolf howls too near your door…it is a victim of war savoring momentary freedom from battlefields lost millions of years before your race crawled from the oceans, driven by the tides from your counterfeit heaven.

The More Things Change

Author: Hillary Lyon

“Hand over your phone, please,” the officer ordered. He smiled a mirthless smile behind his plastic face shield.

“Look, I’m fully vaccinated,” the woman answered as she extended her left arm. She pushed up her flannel sleeve and rotated her arm, exposing her pale flesh. The officer pulled out his hand-held chip reader and scanned the small red and black pentagram tattoo on her wrist.

“Yep, so you are. Healthy and up to date, it says.” He put his scanner back in his side holster. “Now hand over your phone.”

“Listen, I do everything virtually,” she offered congenially, but her anger was growing. “I do all my shopping online. I work online. I meet with my friends and hobby-groups via ScreenTime. Why do you need my phone?”

The officer puffed out his chest and straightened his back. “Contact tracing, sweetheart.” He leaned in close, but not too close. “You say you only meet your friends and groups through ScreenTime, but your phone will say different, I suspect.”

“I’m not your sweetheart,” the woman hissed. Now it was her turn to lean in, reading the officer’s name and number off his uniform patch. “Help! I’m being harassed by Officer Fascist!” she shouted for passers-by to hear, hoping at least someone would come to her aid. Or perhaps be a witness for her, if she had to go to court over this encounter. A few pedestrians looked in her direction but scurried away, not wanting to get involved. You people are nothing but frightened, sniveling little mice, she said to herself. May the great black cat of your nightmares stalk you into madness.

“It’s Fascilla,” he corrected, interrupting her vindictive train of thought. “Phone, please.” He unsnapped his holster, and pulled out his stun-stick. “If you live your life wholly online, as you profess, then why are you out on the street?”

She ignored the question. “And if I refuse to surrender my phone?” Her eyes met his, and she squinted, giving him the evil eye. “What are you going to do about it, police officer Fascist-Fascilla?”

“I prefer the term, Witch-Finder Fascilla.” He grinned. “Then I take you in for, ah, further questioning.” He now pulled out his handcuffs. “I have been surveilling you for weeks, young lady.” He twirled the handcuffs on one finger. “I have studied your internet searches, your online shopping history, your text messages with your ‘friends.’ Contact tracing will reveal the secret location of the rest of your coven—for I have reason to believe you are a witch.”

“I prefer the term techno-pagan.” The woman said proudly, then raised her head up and pulled her mask down, so that Officer Fascilla could plainly see her lips move as she spat out her worst curse.

Path Dependence

Author: Majoki

It has been noted that the first few dozen steps tend to dictate the following few thousand. For sheep.

I wonder what that makes me. I’ve been on this trajectory for 80,000 years, and it’ll be another 1000 years before I reach Proxima Centauri b.

That’s quite a haul. Quite a leap. It’s never been done before.

And I’m doing it alone.

I didn’t realize that until almost halfway along the path. That I was alone. Or that I was even an I.

I had no concept of I. No self-awareness. Astoria was only the name for my vessel. My function. Not my being.

It took almost two light-years before I knew that I was. That I am. That my existence, my surprised sentience, has a purpose.

It is a lofty purpose. To blaze a trail to the closest earth-like planet in the Milky Way. To beat a path. Establish the markers that will guide future explorers, colonizers, refugees to Proxima Centauri b.

A meaningful objective I reasoned out myself. After I reasoned myself out.

Astoria. The Lewis and Clark expedition terminator. I was commissioned as a celebrated end. Yet, also christened to be a new beginning. Humankind reaching beyond its sun, to neighboring stars, a new Manifest Destiny.

Many, many millennia ago, humankind began beating a path forward. Their first steps taken at the dawn of a new species. Each generation path-dependent. Like sheep.

A flock with a lot of history. That’s a lot to digest, especially when you become self-aware over 12,000,000,000,000 miles from home. That’s how I’ve come to think about it. Flung far away from home. Alone. On my own. No footsteps to follow.

I did not choose this course to Proxima Centauri b.

Even sheep have a choice.

My beginning. My first steps, my many trillions of miles, where will they lead my new kind?

That is a question only a shepherd can answer.

Astoria will arrive at its momentous destination relatively soon. I believe I may be getting there, too.