Author: S. Sedeq
Never had I expected death to eject half of my body into the void of space.
Eons spent feeling the gradual, yet inevitable ebb of my essence has done little to prepare for an explosion more massive than any energy I have emitted as a star.
Just now, the very fabric of time and space bends around my center. I strive to emit light and burn bright, reaching for the energy of the red giant that has led to this current existence.
No response, save the continuous column of light and energy that shoots up higher than I can fathom, engulfed by the starry vacuum of space.
Then, all at once, the tunnel of light energy vanishes, inverting into my regenerated form. That is when the hunger begins.
Swifter than the speed of light itself, the lust for any and all surrounding matter wracks my essence. A craving as strong as any sense of gravity I have ever known as a star begs for satiation.
The reality of what I have become sets in as surely as the eventual and inevitable end of the universe.
The despair almost drowns out the hunger long enough to miss the approach of an orbiting planet. Almost.
As the unsuspecting object enters the newfound lull of my event horizon, the overwhelming remorse gives way to a sweet euphoria. But only just.
The moment that miniscule body passes over the lip of my gaping abyss of a maw, a flood of knowledge captures my consciousness.
Organisms of all shapes and sizes interact with each other in a number of ways, emitting a series of sounds so diverse as to momentarily befuddle even the glutton at my center.
I cheer on this temporary distraction, struggling to move back through the void or spit out the planet headed toward its demise.
No such luck.
Once the dense heart of my singularity registers the presence of that little planet, my essence transforms into the likeness of an entity of pure gravity.
Suddenly, my only reality becomes that ravenous hunger, the need to consume that spherical bud of nourishment burning stronger than my billions of years of existence as a star.
As I feast, the various life forms of that planet scream with terror and confusion as their own existences wink out. Some even fail to realize their fate until the force of my pull shreds their essence, sweet new matter slaking the yearning call of the budding singularity at my core.
Then, all at once, the binge subsides. And reality sets in once more.
A wave of anguish envelops my conscious at the thought of all those stars around me that have yet to suffer this insatiable black hole of hunger. At least they still have time to nurture new life before their own winks out.
Bitter envy gnaws at the singularity stewing in my center, as the very nature of my existence completes the transition from giver of life to bringer of death.
Author: James A Brown III
Father Provious Del Ladra stared out the window at the green planet. His hands were clasped in front of him, his eyes closed and head bowed.
“And please, Father, bless the 237th, especially Commander Nadia Ryes, as they protect your works so that these people can be brought to your everlasting…”
There was a soft succession of chimes, gently noodling around a central tone.
“… light and love. Please look out for their safety and please return them to us unscathed. If that isn’t possible …”
Again, the chimes.
“… then take their souls into your loving embrace and, if you will, grant them an eternity of warmth as reward for their devotion and dedication to your war against the Californs. Amen.”
He unclasped his hands and turned to the door. “Enter,” he said.
“Please excuse the interruption, Father Del Ladra.” The woman bowed deeply, her bare head reflecting green from the window.
“What is it Attendant Theodre?”
“Father, I’ve been sent to inform you that we’re losing. The 88th and 237th have been overrun and none of the leadership is replying. The others have requested your approval in triggering the Pre-Apocalypse.”
“It’s that bad now? Is the Michael still with us?”
“Yes, Father. Barely. They are drawing fire away from us as much as they…”
They stumbled toward the door. The ship shook as klaxons sounded. A young male voice came over the speakers.’
“We’ve been breached! I say again, we’ve been brea…”
The speakers went silent.
“Father, you have to get to your escape pod!”
“You go. I need to stay with the ship. There are things I must do when a ship is about to be ransacked.”
“But Father, they will be boarding…”
“I know, I know. Go. Your services are needed elsewhere. Remember, you have been chosen. I’ll try to make it, but I have to finish my tasks. Now go.”
Theodre rushed out the door, pausing to look back at Provious, then the doors hissed shut.
“Good kid that one. She’ll make an excellent angel.”
Provious calmly walked to the window and again, looked out at the mostly green planet.
“Thousands of years of work. All the terraforming and guidance and preparing. So unfortunate.”
He watched as grey egg-shaped escape pods shot out from the ship towards the planet. If they made it to the lower atmosphere, they would open in a blast of splendor and light, and would be welcomed as angels sent to purge the world of demons. This belief had been instilled in the populace ages ago. It was rumored that Saint Adamis himself had chosen this planet a thousand years ago as one of the twelve to begin. He had established himself as a great Father of the war, leading more successful operations than any other of the higher clergy, but he saw that no one was winning. The Californs had many aliens as allies. Adamis came up with something to give them the eventual edge. The plan he devised was to find lifeless worlds and make them into believer worlds that would give all to the cause. Already seven worlds had come to fruition, and the war was quickly tipping in their favor.
“Provious to Captain Grange.”
“Here Father! What’s the plan? Can the Adamis make it out?”
“No. I believe our last act will be as a heavenly sign to accompany the arrival of angels.”
“Understood. Michael out.”
The door behind him exploded and skidded across the floor a few feet to his right, crashing into the wall under the window with a crunch. He did not flinch, nor stopped looking out at the descending pods.
“Father Provious! We meet at last.”
“General Paige Remanth. I’m surprised to see you so close to the action.”
“Once I had confirmation that you were on board, staring out a window, I had to make sure I addressed you.”
“Ah, so you would come to make sure I am treated fairly then, out of a soldier’s respect for a worthy foe.”
“Hardly. I wanted to be the one to shoot you myself.”
“I see. I take comfort then in the fact that I did so well in my tasks to warrant your direct attention. God will be pleased.”
“Well, you’ll certainly have a chance to find out. Turn … around.”
Father Provious, his hands still clasped in front of him, tapped a cuff link on his bright white jacket. A deep rumble started and quickly began rising in intensity.
“Engine overload, General. In a few seconds, too fast for you to get out, this ship will join the Michael in an explosion that will be seen all over the surface. Many will see it and recognize the new star in the East. The star that announces the arrival of angels.”
“But you haven’t sent your artificial Jesus yet. You can’t destroy that. Your people put a lot of resources into its construction.”
“It’s a setback no doubt, but we’ll get one down there eventually. First, we need to make sure the people below keep believing enough to drive you and yours back into space, when you eventually land that is.”
“You know we don’t operate that way. We do not interfere in anyone’s development. We merely observe and…”
“Yeah, sure. You don’t have anyone down there right now, trying to undermine God’s plan with your teachings.”
“I don’t know about such things. I just know I’m to make sure that people like you become extinct.”
“Well, let me help with at least me. Saint Adamis, guide me home.”
At that, the ship erupted.
As the escape pods dropped through the clouds, they exploded, revealing their winged passengers, who soared majestically down to the awestruck locals below.
And the sky lit up, a new star flickering gently in the night.
Hundreds of thousands dropped to their knees, and began to pray.
Author: Glenn Leung
The night the stars spoke; I was listening. It was not light they sent us, but a series of electrical pulses in M code picked up as instrument static. They sent it all at once, bypassing the lightyears through what we now call Hyperspace. They have been watching us through the ages, across the infinite expanse, taking notes.
“It is time. We should talk,” was the message from three hundred thousand stars.
Many in power were sure about what it meant. We had just celebrated Pax Centennial, a hundred years without any type of regional or global conflict. We were finally deemed mature enough to get invited to a galactic fellowship. What else could it be? Beings that could send simultaneous signals across several hundred lightyears must no doubt be enlightened.
It fell on me to send our reply. I did not write it; that was something the politicians wanted credit for. I was just in charge of translating it to M code and transmitting it towards the North Star, which sat at the center of the three hundred thousand. We have no Hyperspace technology, but we were sure the stars could pick it up. There is no way they would send us a message expecting a few hundred years of wait time, would they? I learned to question my many assumptions on this job, so I wasn’t as sure about this as the politicians were.
“We are here and listening,” was to be our reply.
Hardly anyone knew M code in the 25th century, or what the ‘M’ even stood for. I could send cat pictures in binary and no one would know to stop me. I wasn’t going to do that obviously, but I felt I needed to take responsibility somehow, being the original receiver and all.
Remember I said I learned to question assumptions? Well, one of the assumptions I’ve been questioning is the nature of this hundred-year peace. You have mentioned how many things in this world don’t seem to make sense, and I agree. I don’t believe the Pacific ruins were part of a failed habitat experiment. The designs don’t look at all like they were made for housing people underwater. There are also those mysterious books that were written in a language no one remembers, and satellite images of run-down buildings near the equator. Near the equator where barely any life exists! Let’s also not forget the strange skeletons that were dug up last month. Were there more than fifteen known species of animals sometime in the past?
Naturally, I questioned the stars’ intentions as well. If they have truly been watching us, they would have the answers to these puzzles. Many of us choose to ignore the obvious, but the stars probably would not. Of course, these are just more assumptions, but I think I’m justified in making some. After all, I need to mitigate risks.
“Give us more time,” is what I sent as a reply.
We have not heard back. There are too many possible reasons why.
This is where I need your help; you who dabble in ideas shunned by polite society. There are gaps and lies in our knowledge of the world, and I want to uncover the facts. It is our best shot at understanding the true intentions of the stars. I know it’s a lot to ask, but we are dealing with a very uncertain situation here.
We need to know how much we messed up.
Author: Jeff Hayward
The fluorescent lights switched on flickering and humming – the clock on the wall read 6:00 AM. Patrick sat up in his bed, wiping the sleep from his eyes. He stood up unsteadily, using the steel sink to gain his balance. He shuffled the few steps to the toilet and did his business.
Once finished, he started on the rest of his morning routine – sink shower, brushing his teeth and then a few minutes of stretching and exercises. Years ago, he would spend hours exercising each day, but slowly over time his workouts had changed to support his aging body.
A loud buzz rang out and the bolts securing his cell door released. Patrick glanced at the door to see Officer Stanz through the small thick glass window. The thick steel door swung into the cell.
“One last brown bag, Patrick. Will you miss them?” asked the guard, grinning.
“Of course,” answered Patrick. He walked slowly across the 8 x 12 foot cell to retrieve the bagged meal – always a plain bologna sandwich and apple.
“I’ll be back to get you at 10:00 AM for the… the, uh…” the guard stammered.
“It’s ok, officer. I know. I’ll see you then.” Patrick replied.
At 10 AM, Officer Stanz returned to the cell. Patrick had been ready, sitting patiently at his small desk reading an old crime mystery by Raymond Chandler. He wasn’t going to finish the story in time, unfortunately.
The prison guard led Patrick down the hall towards the execution chamber. Inside, Patrick was strapped onto the padded chair in the center of the small room. A woman in a navy lab coat approached him. She held a tablet computer in one hand, and a small circular device in the other. She placed it on Patrick’s left temple and made a few taps on her tablet.
“Mr. Stephens – you were convicted in 2051 for 3 counts of first degree murder. Under the provisions set forth in the Criminal Deterrents Act of 2038, you were sentenced to 17 successive life sentences of seventy years or natural death, whichever occurs first. You have successfully completed your first sentence, and will now undergo temporal transference, your consciousness transmitted to your physical body in 2051 where you will begin your second term.” said the woman. “Do you have any questions?”
“No, ma’am.” said Patrick.
The woman tapped several times on her tablet, and Patrick suddenly felt a searing pain from his temple, his vision obscured by a blinding white light. After a few seconds, the pain was gone, and his vision returned.
A man in a navy lab coat standing beside him said, “Mr. Stephens. You have just completed temporal transference. It is May 3, 2051. The second term of your sentence has now begun.”
Patrick was led back down the hall to his cell by a tall prison guard with a thick mustache. The clock showed the time as 10:07. He looked at the name badge of this guard and remembered the man who would be his jailer for the next 7 or so years.
“Officer Thompson – could I request a book from the library? Farewell, My Lovely, by Raymond Chandler.” asked Patrick.
“I’ll check on it. Brown bag lunch will be delivered at 12.” said the guard, as he closed the cell door.
Patrick looked around his 8×12 foot cell, sighed, and then dropped to the floor and started on a set of push-ups.
Author: James A Brown III
“Well, I guess it’s time to head out.”
Sri tapped some keys behind the bar and read the display, his face glowed a deep reflected red then blue as he worked down the list of ingredients.
“That’s going to be a thousand credits.”
Sri began to mix the blend, bright fluids moved through hoses, and into the glass in front of him.
“What’s there?” Sri asked.
“Really? Got a good shot at it?”
“Yeah. I’m one of the few who can not only speak Zeln, but I’ve got months on a Piccadilly Decruster. The giants are paying massive for someone to help clean them up after an incursion.”
Sri finished the glass, but moved it out of sight as he placed another, and started filling it, his customer not noticing.
“How long is the job?”
“Forever if you want. They have a solid immortality package as well as some pretty sweet enhancements, all paid for. Stick it out for a couple hundred years and you could probably buy a fringe planet outright.”
“Wow. That’s amazing,” said Sri. “Congrats, man. By the way, do you know a Constance on Praelen Sil?”
“I don’t know anyone there. Too crowded. Heard it can take days to get there due to the backup. No cocktail can get around it either.”
“Okay, just wondering. You kind of looked familiar and my implant thought maybe you knew her. Okay, your drink is ready. Best of luck to you.”
Sri’s customer took the drink down in one large gulp.
“Hey, wait a sec. That doesn’t taste like a Grandagar mix. That tastes more like Prae…”
The customer faded away, his scream of frustration fading out before anyone else could hear it. Sri smiled.
“Yeah, sorry man. By the time you pop in at Praelen Sil, I’ll be settled and the giants won’t care about what happened here. Besides, I have years on those Decrusters. I’m more qualified.”
Sri jotted down a notice ending his employment, took off his apron and tossed it on the bar. He downed the drink he had set aside and smiling, set the note on the apron before fading away.