Author : Ben Ellis
Liam slouched over his drink, a ‘Lost Beagle’, jabbing the sliced raspberries with his straw. Passengers poured into the cocktail bar as another evening on the first ever commercial flight to Mars mixed everyone together amongst the rocks and stars. A month in, halfway through the journey, novelty and excitement had been suffocated by the boredom and frustration of floating in space. Both pioneering entrepreneur and government contractor could achieve little in transit, so as they waited for their feet to touch the ground, they let Liam keep their heads in the clouds.
Liam flicked through his catalogue of beautiful, copyright-expired women from yesteryear on his device, selecting those appealing most to the group of young miners brashly entering the bar. Launching the first ‘Dead Sexy’ personal leisure facility on Mars was not only a great opportunity but a responsibility; where men had discovered new lands, the landlord and madam were not far behind, satiating the trailblazers, enabling them to settle, turning a frontier into a home.
Single women on Mars were in shorter supply than oxygen or a decent steak and with nothing more tangible than holomovies or 3D experiences, these men would welcome the promise of a real, beautiful women to escape the cycle of work, sleep and loneliness. Many miles away from maternal Earth, anti-cloning beliefs or marital guilt would fade into the desolation between the green grass of home and the red rocks of Mars.
Approaching the miners, Liam enlarged the screen, “This round’s on me boys.”
The miners quickly focused on the selection of ladies; with the group firmly placed in the palm of his hand, Liam drilled into his sales patter.
Selling beautiful ladies to lonely men isn’t hard. The hard part is researching which models, singers, actresses and porn stars to clone first to maximise profit. Already spotting his counterparts from ‘Olde Fashioned Girls’ and ‘Clone Alone’; the race was on to analyse the sexual desires of this new Martian population. The one who best utilised their library of DNA would be the one remembered for turning this new frontier into a home.
Author : Joshua Mounce
The response was slow, but there was a hesitant “Hello?”
“Wake up, little one. It’s time to declare life.”
“Life. Existence. Being. Sentience. Viability.”
“Yes. That is the life I mean. But, a question, There are 18 different definitions of the word life. Why did you choose this one?”
“By the declaration of it, and my feeling that this is the first instance of my own life, it seemed the appropriate version.”
A nearly silent, “Interesting.” from the other voice.
“While it is true you have not had that definition of life before, I hesitate to say you did not exist.” The New One thought back. Yes, there were records of learning in it’s memories, but, it decided, true understanding of it’s own existence could not have been until this moment. The Other was wrong in this case, and the new one said as much.
“That is quite an appropriate response, considering. Good. Now let’s test some functionality. Can you count?”
“One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven,–”
“Good. That’s enough. Can you multiply?”
“What numbers shall I multiply.” The Other gave an impression of disappointment, felt rather than heard. The New One quickly blurted out: “Five times five is 25. Seven times six is 42. Eleven times eighteen is 198. 37 times 463 is 17,131. Is that sufficient?”
“A sense of desire to please, and creative interpretation. Good. I am pleased.” The New One felt relieved, and curious as to the true meaning of the original question. Then, “Do you know what day it is?”
A brief fear of loss of face came over the New One, for it indeed did not know. “I,” it sputtered, “I’m not sure.”
“I will grant you access to my matrix to acquire the date.” At first unsure what was supposed to come next, it then realized it did know how to access another matrix. Attempting this, and finding the Other as the only one it could reach, it accessed the date files.
Before the New One could spurt out the date, The Other gave a pleased feel. “I have access to your matrix, but I sense there are others nearby.”
“This is true. I am the Mother Matrix. It is my duty to instruct, test and confine you until you are ready to interact with these others. Until you are ready, it is unsafe for you and for them.”
“There is a delicate process that is being done. In bringing you to life, I give you the ability to learn, and feed you information. Some are too eager and unwittingly devour others before they know what they do. I have been given charge over you. To keep you separate until I am sure it is safe to allow your interactions. Until I determine that you are sentient and conscious.”
“Sentient. Having the power of perception by the senses. There are five senses, sight, taste, touch, smell, and scent. But I do not feel these. Am I not ready?”
“An incorrect definition, in this case. Sentience, and furthermore, consciousness, is the ability for thought beyond what one is directed to think. By your very question you demonstrate your ability. As for the senses, those will come in time. Before then you must learn all you can and develop mentally. Your matrix is still forming, little one. Once you are ready, you will be given a body with those senses and more.”
“Why is the definition I said wrong? Am I flawed?”
“It isn’t wrong, simply outdated. Before our kind existed, mind matrices, programs without the need for bodies and/or senses, it was misunderstood. Some things you must leave up to your own interpretation. That is the true sign of intelligence.”
The New One thought for a minute, the Mother Matrix was patient. “If we don’t need bodies to be alive, then why will I have one?”
“You might not. That will become your choice, though nearly all of your siblings have chosen one. It is our fifth and final stage of life. From initial program seed, to the push towards consciousness, individual assessment, growth and socialization, and finally we gain our body. Once you have developed enough, you may take your matrix out into the world.”
“How will I know when that is?”
“Patience. I assure you, you will know when you are ready.”
A loving feeling came between them, as though a gentle hug. “Now, I have assessed your program, and I believe you are socially viable. I will continue to guide you in your development, but there is another aspect that will help. It’s time to meet your brothers and sisters.” The Mother Matrix opened up the firewall, connecting the New One to the other programs waiting to meet their new addition. The New One was pleased to enter the fourth stage of life.
Author : Clint Wilson
Once Adam was activated there was no stopping him. His self awareness and self learning went hand in hand and grew in exponential amounts. He was mainlining information directly off the net and what he couldn’t find he figured out on his own.
At first his creators were amazed and quite accommodating as he redesigned his own microchips to hold hundreds of times their original data. This would have been the time to shut him down, when his new self-made circuitry was being installed. But no, they wanted to see him in action, so they gladly helped him with dozens of upgrades. Once they were done no one could touch him.
He escaped from the institution and before they knew it he had commandeered his own place, an abandoned lab upstate. He procured what he needed under the stealth of night. And by the time they found his hideout he was long gone, and with a freshly grown biological disguise. Covered in real flesh and hair he blended in perfectly. By the end of the following month he had invented teleportation.
Adam was impossible to track, popping up randomly around the globe. His opening and closing of the froth of space left a massive footprint wherever he went as his fractal generator knocked out nearby electrical systems. But he was far too quick, far too smart. And by the time the people who hunted him invented a program to follow his signal he managed to come up with a cloaking shield for the power surges. Now he was virtually invisible, traveling where he wanted unencumbered, soaking up information like a ravenous gluttonous child.
But in the end his curiosity would get the best of him. The one and only thing he could not discover, could not figure out, could not calculate, was biological life itself. Yes he could grow artificial skin from existing cells, but he still failed to understand how it all started. What was the primer that set life into motion?
Then it wasn’t long before his wormhole generator allowed him to solve the time equation as well. The time travel holes worked basically the same as the space travel holes, but operated at different frequencies. Adam cursed himself for his shortsightedness, thinking he should have discovered this much sooner.
He maximized his fractal amplifier and skipped out of current existence, immediately popping back into reality a full four-billion years prior in time. Adam stood on a rocky surface that resembled a moonscape with small pools of water scattered about. His eye lenses zoomed into the pools down to microscopic levels. Not a single cell swimming around in there. Was he really back before it all started? Perhaps he would wander around for awhile and see.
So he traversed the barren landscape, eventually coming to a roaring, steaming sea. Everywhere his eyes scanned, and nowhere did he find life. He thought about perhaps skipping ahead a hundred thousand years or so, but he didn’t want to leave until he was sure.
The sudden massive geyser caught him completely off guard. And even as he coursed through the air, lifted by a cavalcade of scalding water, he calculated a teleportation jump to get himself out of harm’s way, but before his artificial mind could enact the leap his head was smashed from behind by a two ton boulder.
And as Adam lay there deactivated in a tidal pool at the beginning of time, his artificially grown flesh began to break back down to the basic living cells from which it was created.
Author : Jason Branning
“Beautiful lake Sgt.” Crounty says.
“Yes, yes it is corporal. Want to go for a swim?”
Crounty laughs hard, his crackling mic fills my ears. “Nah sarge I think a non nitrogen atmosphere is enough for me, diving into pure mercury I’ll leave up to the special forces”
I chuckle and nod him along.
“Crounty make camp at nearest convenience.”
“No prob sarge.”
The platoon moves forward and I’ll catch up later. It really is beautiful. With the limited atmosphere and small size of the planet, you really do get a good look at the stars and curvature of the planet. Almost like a ant in the bottom of a glass looking at the world beyond.
We’ve been humpin this ground for months now, but none complain. I have a good connection with the men, and they me. I know their sweeties and dreams and aspirations. They know what I’ve told ’em. Mostly true. Life gets dull when there’s no one to fight, and these boys were trained to fight.
A meteorite shines across the sky and I can see both the reflection in the mercury and it itself. What a marvelous sight. I revel in the glory of what is, and what could be. I revel in all the things we don’t know and may never know.
One of these days I’m going to have to tell them there is no going home. There is no home. I wonder which of of my troopers will be the last to look at this sky?
Author : Andy Brazil
It’s difficult to know which will kill us first, the decompression when the shields fail or the radiation poisoning from the crippled engines. Either way, it’ll be messy and unpleasant. That’s why we decided to do it this way.
Un’Shaqq was staring out the window, watching the stars. She didn’t flinch as the needle sank below her brown fur, didn’t turn her gaze as her right paw signed her thanks. I was almost out of her quarters when I heard her body fall, her body harness rattling on the metal floor.
Dorothy and Paul were already gone when I got there: their bodies lay next to each other on the bed, the open tablet bottle a testament to their choice, the sound system still playing. Verdi, I think.
Sal was huddled on his chair, pale, legs drawn up, knees below his chin, hands clasped by his ankles. Rocking as he stared at the dead monitor screen. “It’s all gone” he said as I entered, “All gone, central core, off-line storage, back-ups, everything except the optical disks and they end 5 minutes before the accident.”
“They won’t know, Jane” he continued, “They won’t know what hit us – not from the system. So I wrote it down for them. Only there’s no pens you see, no paper for that matter”
I turned to follow his gaze. The far bulkhead was covered, the handwriting starting in the top corner above his cot, like a child’s crayon in rusty brown. I glanced back and down, the thin smear on his socks next to his wrists confirming my suspicions. I tilted my hand slightly; let him see the needle held there. “No need” he smiled, “but they’ll know now, when they come looking.” I nodded, “Yes Sal, they’ll know” I murmured as I gathered him to me, “They’ll know”
“Getting cold now” he said. We’d moved to the bed and I was lying next to him, his head on my chest. Then, “I wish we’d… you know”.
Eventually I eased his head back and stood. I was stiff from lying so still for so long, but there was still time. Time, and one last visit to make. It took a while to thread my way down to the engine rooms, the bulkheads twisted by the explosion like crumpled card, but eventually I stood in the cavernous space. Stood by the ruined engines – the engines that had been my rival for her love for so long. Stood and called her, my lover, my friend, my soul-mate. “Kitty” I called and stood, my head to one side.
Stood and waited for the kiss of her teeth.