To Thine Own Self Be True

Author: David C. Nutt

His laugh was annoying, his smirk maddening. His attitude… beyond human arrogance. I suppose that was the point, as he wasn’t exactly human anymore. As a parole officer, I had to deal with plenty of his kind. You’d think I’d be used to it by now, and I am, but it doesn’t make it any less tiring.
“Manslaughter! HA! For my kind that’s a badge of honor. We’ve transcended you… biologicals. Engineered ourselves into a master race far superior to mere humans. Far better than “incompletes.”
The last was a dig directed at me. That’s what they called all of us who had some kind of physical challenge. A genetic spine deformity crippled me, compromised my body too much even for augments. But, even if I could have implants and augments, I think I’d skip them. I’m comfortable with who I am. The life I’ve made for myself. I had friends who had work done. Heck, some even became like the arrogant prick sitting across from me right now. He and his kind, “Ultras” they call themselves, have stepped into the void left by the third, fourth, and fifth Reich- only now religion and skin color, even genetics didn’t matter. Just how you improved yourself through surgical cybernetic augmentation.
“Yeah, If I didn’t have these cuffs on I could snap your puny human pencil neck, get a glass of water, and be back in my chair before your pathetic body hit the floor.”
I nodded. “I’m sure you could take care of me and not break a sweat. Then again, I’m the one in control here.”
I saw him grip the arms of the chair to the point of almost breaking them. Good. That should give me all the data I need. My computer chimed. Scans finished. Body systems mapped, solution set engaged. Underneath my desk, I hit the restraint button. His shackles fell off. Without even a smile and faster than my eyes could follow, my parolee leaped across the desk to get me- and straight into the force field. (Ultras are so predictable.) All his implanted weapons instantly deactivated. His motor functions reduced to 1%. He could still breathe, move his eyes, but that’s it. I took my time getting around my desk. I bent down over him. I put my crutch on his chest. His eyes told me he didn’t comprehend the movement, that is until I twisted the crutch handle and the ceramic needle fitted with the electrodes pierced his chest and began scrambling his insides just enough to look like a fatal shield accident. His eyes widened as the pain flooded his body. Just like all the other Ultras before him… what was my count now 17? 18? I’d have to check that later.
His grimace of pain and panic were… delicious. I smiled. I looked deep into his eyes. “You were wrong about me. I’m not human either; I’m a monster.”

Message from the Fleet

Author: Brian C. Mahon

The Ultimo stood high on the pinnacle of the spiraling, marble-faced steel staircase, the dais of control, his seat of power. “Come, Sarai,” his voice echoed in the white chamber and in my mind. “Ascend. Join me.”
I took in the height and climbed, snatching what glimpses I could of stars and space that fed through the tower’s encircling video screens. When I made it to the peak, he reached out a withered hand. The liver spots set in the meat of his grip startled me. The Ultimo spoke, “We mined a thousand worlds for this. We sharpened ourselves and gave away all other thought.”
I embraced his hand with both of mine.
“We abandoned our love and our joys. We stripped ourselves of our art and our music and any dream of what to do hereafter. We sharpened ourselves. We… we stripped our-“
With a tremor, a full quarter of his panoramic went dark. The Ultimo placed cold hands on my shoulders.
“We built a million warships and staffed them with our best, our finest, our future. All for this moment, for now, for right now. Look! Look at our grandeur! From the seed of one world, we grew to universal relevancy!”
I looked, and I saw the flashes, the articulate metallic dances against the void, the continuity of life born from a pretty blue world. I watched the machinations of mankind fight for that relevancy. I saw our craft and intelligence and order and design pierce the serenity of an uncaring galaxy. I watched those million ships convert their million little suns into millions of lashing throes against the darkness, against the it, against that thing that came to us and tried to root us out while we were still young. I watched our best and brightest, our young, our future go up in twinkling lights. I watched the screens of his watchtower flicker and fade until I and the Ultimo were fully blind.
“Do you see? Do you see how great we were?”
I smiled and gripped his hands harder. We survived the others who came before Spondylus the wicked. We pushed away the red giants and their hollow automatons. We maneuvered past hegemony by the false god’s golden people. We survived the wicked’s first arrival, when our primitive planetary defenses drew its attention. A thousand years proved our dominance, and I knew the Ultimo to be not simply right, but true!
His chamber convulsed with another tremor that threw me to my knees. Through his sweeping white beard, the Ultimo smiled. The lights in his eyes danced and grew, and his eyes danced in flames, in defiant greatness, in fire and sadness and pain and anger and terror. His silence became the effusive litany of our great legacy against and within the darkness, and with one last proud intonation of his wrinkled brow, the Ultimo reached for a pedestal and swiped it with a crooked finger. I flew. I flew upward in a gust so quickly that I hadn’t known I was flying until I saw the Ultimo below me, smaller and smaller. Then, I went black.
This is how I came to be, floating in the dark, a blink, a signal, a waveform in search of an ansible. We raged against it. We raged as we were taught to do, until it seemed the light had died. May the Million Fleet be victorious. May the echo of our voice still proclaim that we were.

Eternal Dreams

Author: William Norberg

Dreams. Were they pleasant? I can’t remember… Sleep used to come easily in the darkness of the night. But now I trudge endlessly through choking shadows. Where neither sleep nor death will come to me mercifully. Naked, cold, starving.

A sickly dark green sky dimly paints these barren rocky lands, where nothing grows and nothing chirps. High up above stalks a maddening pitch black sun. Dark as a punctured hole in the sky. Looking into its abysmal gap I can’t help but ask: “Is this a dream?”

Was life a dream before this? I can’t remember… But deep within my well of faint memories, I know that it was not such a torturous fate as this. For if I close my eyes pictures dance across my blackened mind:

Golden fields and shimmering blue rivers. Luscious green carpets of trees lining towering mountains. Warm and cozy houses filled with jolly… Creatures? What were these creatures called? They were people. They were men, women, and children. I’m a part of these beings, yet I can’t remember our names… It’s long lost and forgotten. Washed away in the eternity spent roaming these dark and sinister wastelands.

Did we deserve this? YES, a memory whispers within me. We found something which we should have left alone. Something which came from the stars, from the outer reaches of the black gulfs of the cosmos. It was sleeping. It was dreaming.

I vaguely remember that day. The day we landed on the red planet.

I…I can’t remember much of what happened. Perhaps my mind has spared me from the horror? I remember the sight of a strange black rock deep within a cavern of the planet.

It was not natural, not from this world. Its shape was perfectly round and showed no sign of damage or markings. It looked untouched. It consisted of something abysmal and pitch black. It absorbed all light reflected on it, appearing as a hole in existence. We had observed it in a variety of ways, and data showed that within it was an unconscious stream of thought. We knew something was slumbering within.

We opened it. Burned through its shell which melted into a seemingly magmatic liquid which upon contact with the red ground vaporized into thick black smoke.

I remember seeing a dark shape crawling out, slithering out. Then it’s all a blur… My eyelids grew heavy as lead, colors faded to nothing but grey, then black. Out from that choking darkness came a monstrous voice whispering in my ear. It spoke in an unknown tongue. A terrible, deep, and ancient tongue: “Fhtagn…Fhtagn… Nglhu’gh afla’nglui ai’f… Mglw’nafh fhtagn ee’ghui zhro ai’f…”

The words twisted and squirmed within my fading mind, as if alive. They began to speak from within me, translating a fraction of its meaning: “Dreaming…Dreaming…Stars aligned at last…”

Dreams. I can’t remember their beauty or meaning… All I know is that I’ve roamed these lands of shadows for eternity. My ears hurt from the cries and moans echoing between the barren cliffs. Naked boney figures cling to the rocks, desperately seeking a dark crevice to crawl into. To hide from the demonic voice rumbling in the sky where a black sun hangs.

No sign of day. Only eternal night looms over these accursed lands. Soon I’ll go mad myself, and cry out and chant with these insane creatures:

In the dreadful dream, he waits,

Laughing at our eternal fates,
Grinning cause it’s way too late,
We peeked into the cosmic gate,
Never shall we ever awake…

It was sleeping. It was dreaming… And we awoke it…

Do You Require Translation Services [x] click to close popup

Author: Samuel Stapleton

We work with law enforcement often, but we’re not cops. We work with business beings from every populated system, but we’re not economists. We work with medical professionals, but we’re not even versed in basic first aid. In our cheapest job, we paid our client. In our most lucrative job, we matched the yearly GDP of Thebe in a few hours. Whether you’re impressed or not is up to you, but hopefully we have your attention…

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The last System Census peaked at 10,318 spoken languages. But nobody knows how many body languages, dialects, accents, cultural references, contextual clues, etc, exist. An AI tried to calculate the number once. We would print you the number the AI came up with for the estimate of how many misunderstandings occur during each business day, but the number requires over six hundred Standard System Datapages (SSDs). We just can’t fit that on our holocard.

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Disclaimer 1 of 53: The Translation Offices of Asteroid 47™ will not be hired for cases involving: open criminal proceedings, communication between spouses, or ex-spouses. Any case involving politicians (because we can’t understand you), or any children under the galactic age of 3 (baby-talk is not a recognized language according to the supreme court ruling from 2089 (Harry vs Blrupppzzs-mammlm)). The Translation Offices of Asteroid 47™ retain the right to deny contracts for reasons other than those listed*.

Gilded Cage

Author: Rick Tobin

Nondescript gray gruel drifted over the worn stainless spoon stirring in a prisoner’s brown wooden bowl. Two ragged, worn men sat facing each other, heads bent down toward a stained wooden picnic bench, one lifting a metal water cup to dilute rancid flavors from his throat.

“Miguel. Quietly,” the larger man whispered across the meal. “They’re listening. Two months. News from the Brazilian?” Anderson pulled his drifting, greasy locks past his eyes while making brief hand gestures on the table, indicating where guards were standing. Miguel put one finger out, tapping it lightly.

“La sangre,” he whispered. Miguel pulled his worn sleeve back, exposing his scars from constant IVs.

“You mean, blood?” Anderson’s eyes widened as he pointed, slowly, to his heart.

“Si, es la verdad, sangre oro.”

“Maybe to make sure those women aren’t infecting us. God knows why they force us on them. Get that fat kiwi broad again?” Anderson choked back some stew, thinking about cramped mating pens with guards prodding, forcing coupling.

“Muy horrible…you call…nightmare?” Miguel rubbed his neck, rolled back his shirt collar, exposing bite marks.

Anderson sat back quickly, as if struck by an invisible hand. “You said oro…you mean gold…like golden blood?”

“Si, Anderson. I have the golden blood. You?”

“For God’s sake, that’s it. They took us because we have no antigens. Why…why would they?”

His questioning stopped as guards descended on them. Soon, a feeding area door opened to exude a man in a doctor’s uniform with military epaulets.

“So, Anderson, always the curious one. We’ve watched you. If this one figured it out,” he pointed at Miguel, “It won’t be long before everyone knows, even the women. You can let them go, guards.” The doctor waved thugs off two seated men.

“Explain, asshole!” Anderson turned. A machine gun barrel pushed into his face.

“No, we can’t have that, sergeant. Step back. They’ll settle down. I’m Doctor Evans of Space Command. You, and Mr. Hernandez, are some of our treasured guests. You’ve guessed half the reason, but not all.”

“Treasured guests?” Anderson growled.

“I assure you; my superiors ordered these Spartan conditions after our failures with genetic alterations and artificial insemination. Your kind has complicated reproduction issues. We couldn’t afford to lose a single rare golden blood donor, so…this last alternative. Those pitiful women are just like you—here against their will. We need offspring with dominant genes, ensuring a continual breeding stock.”

“You Nazi bastard…” Anderson reached out before a baton slapped his hands.

“This is about species, not race, Anderson. You see, gentlemen, we have a narrow six-year window. We’re moving an army to Mars to neutralize recent Chinese incursions. Dominance battles are coming. Casualties need universal donor blood supplies from available healthy sources on Mars… babies you’ll make. There are only fifty of you left on Earth. We can’t have that resource wasted.”

“There’s no pit in hell deep enough for what you’re doing…and those women!” Anderson spit at Evans.

“Really? Such bravado. Consider your eventual benefits. Apophis is a planet killer. That asteroid got close last pass, then changed course, so we stepped up Mars migrations. If you aren’t on Mars by 2036, you’ll die. Be assured, you assets will continue mating there, and eventually be crowned heroes. For now, get used to that bitch from Auckland. We need her. She tends toward twins.”