This Was Never Our Intent

Author: Renée Jessica Tan

When we had isolated the predator gene, it was with all good intentions. The idea was to build a hyper-focused, unrelentingly driven, unapologetic and fearless Alpha. We knew these characteristics aren’t always considered a positive in society, but these are also traits exhibited by the greatest people in history, from heads of state, athletes, inventors, artists.

Lead by pioneer geneticist, Dr. Joan Gudas, we created two specimens with the same material. They were not identical in the classic sense. They were two separately mapped and successfully fertilized zygotes. The only difference was the XX and the XY chromosome.

They were both implanted into one volunteer hostess. Everything was proceeding well until the fifth month when our researchers noted Fetus A overtook Fetus B in size. We don’t know why. It was only two millimeters. But it was enough.

Two days after the inequity was recorded, the hostess reported discharge and bleeding. An ultrasound showed that Fetus A had consumed the partially developed brain of its wombmate. In disbelief and somewhat stupefied by grief, the team rushed back to the lab to document and to develop a hypothesis as to what went wrong. We failed to administer to the hostess as we left her alone to heal. It was a field intern who found her three days later. Her abdomen had been eaten through by Fetus A, who itself was near death from malnutrition.

Despite the hell it had wrought, we tried to save Fetus A, but we were unsuccessful.

There was heated debate as to how to handle the death of the volunteer. While we all felt tremendous guilt, the primary concern was that filing a fully transparent account would alert the government to the nature of our research. Considering the outcome, we realized what we created could easily be weaponized. Many championed the proposal to pass it off the volunteer’s death as the tragic outcome of an unsanctioned late-term abortion. Ultimately Dr. Gudas felt such a profound ethical breach was unjustifiable. Instead, the body was simply delivered to the coroner with the signed volunteer waiver, which disclosed the name of our laboratory.

It took a few months for the harassment to begin. It started with emails sent from official-looking addresses demanding we provide a comprehensive detail of our field study. People from various agencies started calling and showing up at our workplaces and homes. Some implied we were under criminal investigation. It was suggested that implicating others would be to our individual benefit. When we proved uncooperative, unmarked vehicles began to circle our neighborhoods and follow our children to school. Bank accounts were frozen, distant relatives contacted. Foreign colleagues were told their work visas would be revoked and their families deported. Some of us started receiving death threats.

Dr. Gudas finally made the decision to submit a carefully edited dossier of our failed experiment. We all agreed the best way to mitigate the worst possible outcome was to only provide data on the unknown variable. In other words, we omitted the existence of Fetus A. The government was only given the genome for Fetus B. After this report was submitted, all data from our years of research was destroyed.

The situation is now out of our hands. The government has barred any of us from their highly classified project based on the information we were forced to provide. But we are out there, keeping tabs on all the new hostesses who have no idea what they are carrying inside them.

On the one hand, we pray for their survival. On the other hand, we pray for them to fail.

Jacknifed

Author: David Barber

“Yes, I remember this one. His ex called it in. We found a bookcase full of porn. Vintage 2D on magnetic tape,” said Frank.

The woman sitting on the other side of the desk is Jan Fierro, the Department chief.

“When you say we, for the record.”

“Frank Scott, Officer with the GenderPol. And Jen Johanssen. She was my partner at the time.”

“But you and Officer Johanssen disagreed about it.”

“What to do about it, yes. We all know porn’s linked to gynocrime, but he was a collector. It was all shelved by date. Jacks collect stuff. I mean, friend of mine has a Toyota classic that runs on gasoline.”

Fierro is about to put him right.

“Yes, yes, I know what the law says, but he was never going to rape anybody.”

“In your opinion. And what did the courts decide?”

“Oh, biochemical castration. Behaviour mods. Temporal lobe remodeling, the lot.”

“And you don’t approve.”

“Crime against women’s down isn’t it? It’s just… No. Nothing.”

He shrugs at the next file.

“Thought you’d bring this one up. Yes, I may have mentioned victimless crimes and Jen really stomped me. Desensitisation theory, learning to think about women as objects, you know?”

Fierro was a looker, a fatal mix of desirability and the unattainable. He’d never had much to do with her, even when GenderPol was first set up and they were still the same rank. He was just a jack, right? But when somebody pinned up a photoshopped picture of her in the men’s locker room, he was the one who took it down.

“Jen hated virtual stuff. Said you never knew what you were plugging into. The jack had a silverlace on and…”

“For the record.”

“A silverlace, a neural interface for total immersion software. He was under the spell; didn’t even hear us crash his door. A work colleague apparently. All it takes is a picture and some code.”

Wearily, he explains how the software morphs faces onto bodies, so a jack can have sex with any woman he wants. Virtual sex. Under the spell.

“Yes, I know a lot about it, it’s my job. And I resent the implication.”

Fierro hands over a statement she wants reading out. For the record.

“I have never used morphing software involving… who said this?”

“Sit down Officer Scott. Unless you’re resigning?”

On the street it’s what they call being jackknifed. “I never thought about Jen like that. We were partners.”

He realises he’s clenching his teeth so hard they hurt.

“Yes, I’ve heard about the new scanners. I’ve heard they can hack your dreams. I also know my rights.”

Fierro smiles, something she only does on special occasions. She knows something, the bitch.

“Yeh. That’s my signature.”

The tech adjusts the silverlace on his scalp. “Try to relax,” she says.

“Easy for you to say. Even thinking about women will be a crime soon.”

“All gynocrime begins in men’s heads,” the tech says primly.

“And how long before this is compulsory?”

“Ask yourself what you have to hide.”

“What, from the Thought Police?”

“From women.”

This is a test. The scanner will record your brain state while you are under the spell. Here is a picture of Jan Fierro.
Begin.

One In 7.9 Billion

Author: Timothy Goss

Mother watched from the kitchen. Johnny witnessed her disgust, she no longer recognised her son, neither recognised nor understood him.

It was strange, one night three weeks ago he went to bed and everybody was acting and speaking normally, using words he understood, expressions that related, his mother and father said goodnight as he ascended the stairway. The following morning everything was changed, every action, every reaction, and every goddamn word was gibberish, like they were speaking in tongues, it was frightening.

Johnny watched them all dumbfounded. He knew what he was saying, he could hear what he was saying, he had not changed his vernacular and spoke as he always had. But mother and father and everyone else had changed. Presenters on the TV, with their recognisable smiles, spoke the same gobbledegook, the radio, the internet, everybody. He tried writing things down, but his parent’s just gesticulated their confusion and frustration. He used a couple of expletives in an attempt to provoke a reaction but achieved nothing. Neighbours came to examine him and asked questions he couldn’t understand in a language which made no sense. Everybody sounded the same using syntax with no rhythmic pattern, no formalised structure, they either grunted, groaned, or growled, it was positively simian in simplicity.

One morning Mother and father dragged young Johnny out of bed early, yelling their simian lingo as they did so. He was dressed and packed into the car within three minutes, breathless and befuddled. When they arrived he didn’t know where he was, the buildings were grey and ominous, hanging over the roadway ready to pounce.

They were introduced to an elderly man, who looked barely human, in a small blue office with a small white window. He was sat behind a small wooden frame desk with only a few things on it. He knew of mother and father shaking their hands knowingly, he then wiped his on an anti-bacterial disposable. This man opened a file on the desk in front of him and began to read aloud. Mother and father nodded their heads in unison, occasionally they looked at Johnny. Meanwhile, Johnny looked on bewitched, bewildered, and bemused by the entire affair.

After they had listened to the man behind the desk mother spoke for an extended period, father continued nodding. The man then spoke again raising two then three fingers. Next, he jotted something on a prescription pad. This was not Johnny’s usual surgery and he certainly wasn’t his Doctor. The Quack passed the script to mother and they left. He saw father wink at the receptionist as they passed.

Over the next few weeks and months, Johnny was forced to apply a topical gel to his throat, and he noticed that his food tasted strange. Mother and father showed him bottles of pills with odd markings on them, no words, no logical patterns, so he didn’t know what he was taking, but he took the pills anyway even though they gave him terrible gas. But still, his world became more and more isolated, weirder and weirder. Good friends visited less and less and Johnny retreated further and further from everybody and everything shutting himself away from an alien world.

In his room at night, his favoured place and time now, when the world outside was quieter and all the aliens were tucked up in bed, Johnny would stare out the window listening keenly for the words he understood. They had to be out there somewhere. His world, his people, his mother and father, had to be out there somewhere, he couldn’t be the only one?

The Late Delivery

Author: Cara Yablonski

The delivery was late. For the first time ever.
Every season, the Towne received a shipment full of supplies. Necessities of life. A crate: the size of a modest house and filled to the metal-clad brim with sustenance. One that you could always count on it to arrive because it was all you had and everything you needed.
Until yesterday.
The missing delivery had set the community into panic. People gathered to murmur and buzz. “Where could it be?” they asked in hushed tones, “It must be arriving soon. A delay, or perhaps bad weather!” Many nodded in agreement, for it was better to cling to false confidence than to challenge it.
“That’s it for us. We’re doomed!” stated one man, who wore his spectacles far down on his nose, close to the tip. He paced the Towne square with his gaze focused hawk-like on the sky above. Fear filled the community and threatened to overflow. The thick, manufactured air turned hot and stale.
But there were contingencies in place for such an occurrence. Contingencies that were better left in the untouched, dust-laden charters. Forgotten, until now.
A deep alarm sounded, reverberating across the community, and filling every small corner.
The contingency asked for all to defy their most basic instincts. The townspeople were to bring their supplies to the community center. All food, water, and toiletries – no exception – to be managed and rationed.
The people gathered at the community center. Bumping elbows and shoulders as they cleaved to their goods. Faces marked by a furrowed brow and tight-lipped mouth. Sneakers squeaked against the epoxied resin floors.
The chatter amplified until a dark-haired woman arrived. She grasped at the podium’s ledge and tapped a finger against the microphone. A hush fell like a thick blanket draping over the room.
“Thank you for coming here today. For bringing your balance of supplies and trusting in our contingency plan. As you all know, The Delivery is delayed. This contingency will see us through until…” she coughed, a dry tickle in the back of her throat, “…until the delivery arrives.” Looking across the room at her people she felt a heavy pit in her stomach. She watched as they clung to each other. Hugging tightly to their children and holding the hands of their neighbors. “The delivery is on its way. We should all rest assured that we are being looked after.”
She departed from the podium and exited the building. The sky was beginning to darken, and the woman looked upwards, demanding an explanation. Prayers unanswered, she kicked at the rust-colored dirt beneath her. If only it could provide the sustenance they needed.
A deep chatter resumed as the residents exited the center, congratulating each other on their assured survival. Clapped their hands on each others’ backs and hugging, relief filled smiles adorning their faces.
It was a close call, but all would be fine.

An office building sat empty. Papers scattered about, collecting dust. Half-eaten lunches lay abandoned on office desks, their owners nowhere to be seen. Such time had passed that the contents had spoiled and soured. The only sounds that remained in this world belonged to the failing electronics that had survived and outlasted all life.
In a warehouse nearby sat a large crate, the size of a modest house. Full to its metal-clad brim with supplies. Gallons of water rested in plastic drums. Food lay untouched, rotting in its temperature-controlled packages. The rest of it dried and stale. All of it late for delivery.

Stellar First Date

Author: Gabrielle Elaine Thurman

James sneezed, the corn maze’s pollinic miasma tickling his allergies. Shaking fingers pulled a tissue from his pocket. He dabbed his watery eyes, which searched the crowd at the labyrinth’s entrance for anyone matching the app’s description of his soulmate.
When he’d signed up to be one of the company’s newest software testers, he hadn’t realized how much it was going to affect his love life. Every few weeks, the app sent him on a new blind date, and every few weeks, James bid the woman goodnight, dialed the developers, and stuttered out the disappointing news: He had not found his true love.
“Excuse me.”
He turned, meeting the eyes of a tall brunette. His stomach sank. A neon alien tat sat right in the middle of her cleavage, and similarly themed doodle tattoos squiggled across her collarbones and down both arms. There were piercings in her nose, lips, eyebrows, all the way up both ears and, from the looks of her black tank top, her nipples as well.
“Orion?” he guessed. He awkwardly tucked his used tissue away. I’ve got to at least try with this one, he thought.
He stuck out one sweaty, nervous hand.
She looked at it in disgust. He snatched it back, shifting from one foot to another.
“It seems we’re looking for the same person,” she said. She pressed the cyber-chip embedded in the center of her wrist, and a hologram appeared of a WANTED poster.

ORION BUCCHERI: NON-BINARY HOMOSAPIEN of EARTH MINOR.
SPACESHIP THEFT: 150,000 UNIT REWARD UPON CAPTURE.

The hologram grinned, and the air left James’ lungs. Tasseled dirty blonde hair shaded the criminal’s dark blue eyes, and hir full lips smirked even in a mug shot. Ze had oil-stained fingertips, and the shirt’s sleeves strained to contain hir corded muscles.
The app had finally gotten it right.
“Have you seen this person?” The woman asked.
“No, I—” The app beeped. Orion was near. James tucked his chipped wrist behind his back. “No clue. Can’t help you. Sorry.”
“Well, keep an eye out,” she said.
“Will do,” he said, smiling placatingly. The woman narrowed her eyes.
“Leave bounty hunting to the professionals,” she warned. James nodded, gesturing to his dusty button-up and slacks.
“You’ll find no competition from me,” he assured her. He laughed nervously, and after a moment, she nodded. He took one step back, then another. As the bounty hunter began showing the hologram to the group entering the corn maze, he ran for the barn, the beeping from his wrist growing louder with each step.
Sure enough, a spaceship hid behind the red front doors.
“Orion!” he called.
Immediately, metal pressed against his neck. Pre-recorded cheers came from the direction of his wrist.
“Who are you?” Orion hissed. “How did you find me?”
“My name is James,” he said. “You have to hurry. There’s a–there’s a—”
He sneezed.
Orion yelped and immediately tased him. James’ teeth chattered as electricity rolled through his body, eyes rolling back in his head.
He collapsed to the straw-covered ground, muscles seizing.
Orion cursed and grabbed him by the ankle, dragging him to the spaceship.
“We’ve gotta get outta here,” ze said. Ze sighed. “I guess you’re just gonna have to come with me.”
He moaned. Wait until the developers hear about this, he thought. Orion slammed the spaceship hatch, and the cabin pressurized.
The thrum of the spaceship’s warp core drive rattled his teeth. James dropped his head back against the floor and shut his eyes.
“Guess I’m not going in to work tomorrow.”