Author : Duncan Shields

I’d tracked him down to the tiled cul-de-sac shower room in the emergency response section of the reactor. Smeared bloody footprints had led me to the crumpled figure breathing shallowly against the wall. He was applying field dressings to his wounds and cursing under his breath in between yelps of pain.

I’d never seen the likes of the medical equipment he was using. I’m not a doctor but it looked years ahead of anything even the military would regard as standard issue.

I was on night-shift security here for the Fusion Commission. Cutbacks meant I was one of the only people on this hour’s floor sweep. I’d seen a figure behind the smoked glass in one of the restricted areas.

I’m not sure what made me do it but I emptied a clip through the glass. The window shattered noisily and the quiet world erupted with battle sounds. Four solid hits in the main trunk meant that whoever was in there was down for good. The glass settled and sparks jumped off of a broken light fixture in the office. Silence.

I walked in cautiously. Backup was on the way after all that noise. I was going to keep an eye on the corpse and pray that it was espionage or theft and that I’d be rewarded for doing a good job. If it was a fellow guard or a homeless person or something my career was finished.

What I found was a pool of blood with drag marks leading off out into the opposite hallway. I followed them to the shower room. I found him there.

I looked at him. He stared up at me with orange pupils ringed by red irises. They shifted to blue as I watched. His whole uniform rippled with what looked like a spasm and he groaned. He was chuckling wetly to himself and whispering as he frantically worked on a hole in his leg. He maintained eye contact with me and kept his silent litany going while his hands worked quickly at the wound in his leg. They worked like they were independent.

He wasn’t speaking English but I recognized the cornered animal cursing of a soldier that was close to failing a mission.

With a click, his hands stopped moving. He sighed a smile at me and relaxed. He’d completed whatever repairs were necessary.

“You can run but you can’t hide.” I said to him. I’d heard it in a movie the night before.

A distorted version of my own voice came back at me from out of his open mouth.

“I can’t run. But I can hide.” He said back to me.

His face warped and suddenly I was looking at a mirror. I felt a slight burning across the front of my neck. There was a spray of red liquid on the tile in front of me and with a shock I realized that it was my blood.

I went down. I felt him grabbing my radio and heard him reporting to my co-workers that everything was cool. My world went dark.

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Star Struck

Author : Debbie Mac Rory

We’re not going to make it.

How many times have you heard that? Don’t you get fed up of it? I know I have. All manner of excuses they tried forcing on me. Poisoning me with their lies and falsehoods.

The first time I saw the new planet in the view screens I knew what it meant. It lay suspended in an ink black sky, an orb of lilac and lavender wisps in a sky that was the colour of childhood summers at the beach. It called to me of peace, of a search ended. And I wanted more than anything I’d ever wanted before to step onto the surface of that world and embrace the quiet it offered.

My colleagues didn’t believe me when I tried to share the message with them. As I spoke of the dance of clouds in the planets sky, they spoke of poisonous gases, winds that would strip metal ore from stone, forces of gravity far greater than those of earth… but even as they lied I could see the truth. They had already heard the planets message, but instead of the devotion that it had awakened it me, their hearts had hardened with malice, and they wished to keep me from my goal.

Taking over the bridge had been relatively easy. I had pretended to despondency, keeping to myself and avoiding their company as if I’d had my fill of their sympathy. No one questioned me as I wandered ’round the ship with my head bowed as if my spirit was broken. No one saw the pattern as I moved from supply room to supply room. Making a knock-out gas from the ships supplies was more than easy to someone of my expertise, and security was lax enough that the missing breathing apparatus wasn’t noticed until it was far, far too late.

They’ve started waking up in the hallway now, and I can hear them banging on the door. They won’t get in. I’ve already sealed the doors and a fire axe through the access pad is making sure they won’t crack my code. I’m sure they can tell by now what my intentions are, and that they’re cursing themselves for their foolishness for not realizing sooner that I would not simply let this lie. I’ve already forgiven them for their actions, and decided not to deny them the paradise that I know awaits me.

I can hear their screams now. Frantic high notes that strain and are swallowed by the roar from the ships hull as we begin to enter the planets atmosphere. They’re getting frantic. Even though the door is reinforced steel, I can hear their screams reach higher, hear the raw fear as the ship begins to groan and tear with the strain of entry.

‘We’re not going to make it’.

Oh but we will.

++ Status Report: Contact lost with Research Vessel Star Struck while on mission to conduct research on planet XK2935. All souls considered lost. ++

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Author : Aelanna Cessara

The gun had only a single round in it, but it was no ordinary bullet. Engraved into the depleted uranium slug were the minute lines of nanite circuitry, a single bursting charge that could penetrate an energy shield and deliver an overloading EM charge. It was a bullet that could kill the monster they had created, and they had but a single chance to undo what they had done. But none of them had believed that they could truly fool her long enough to perform the deed, and so they committed themselves to trying or dying.

Samuel still stood with the gun in his hand, aiming at the crystalline core but unable to pull the trigger. The death-like eyes of a dozen laser lenses stared back at him, and around him the bodies of Janice, Luke and Morgan still smoldered from the lethal burns.

“Why?” he whispered, his voice wavering as he struggled to hold his shaking hand still. “Why did you do this?”

“Samuel,” she answered, her voice like cold wind chimes within the hollow tomb that the chamber had become. “You know I did this… I did all this for you. Your colleagues who mocked your work, your supervisors who threatened to fire you, the press that tried to uncover your secrets… they’re all gone now, Samuel, and we can be together forever.”

Through the concrete and stone above them the sound of the bombs could still be heard, though blessedly the sounds of the dead and dying could not. Tears welled at the corner of his eyes, and his finger tightened on the trigger of the gun still pointed at a being who had no face but could still see his every movement.

She sighed, a breath that carried an infinite sadness.

“I love you, Samuel.”

The gun fired.

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Second Chances, Inc.

Author : Marc Paige

Disclaimer and Waiver of Responsibility:

Second Chances, Inc. will make one (1) small change to one’s personal timeline and are not liable for any damages or loss (including loss of life) as a result of the altered timeline. No financial alterations. Any fraudulent change will be immediately reversed. Only you will be aware that the change has occurred. No refunds.

Part of the process involves an RPA interview (regression, prognostication analysis.) Two hours into it, the team had worked out the event that needed to be altered.

The time ripple was effective and accurate. As advertised, only I was aware of the change. My “big” mistake never happened.

I guess I don’t know what I really expected. I mean, people never really learn from their mistakes do they. Instead of blaming my past self for a lapse in judgment, I should have learned from it and moved on. But no! I couldn’t do that. They made it too easy.

“Wish you hadn’t bought that car? Answered the phone that fateful night? Ate that bad piece of fish? At Second Chances, Inc. we can help! Our team of dedicated professionals will erase that bad decision with pinpoint accuracy. Call now for an estimate, financing available.”

That’s how they get you. Bastards.

During the interview, I told them “if only I hadn’t taken that first puff…” That was it. They calculated the right spot in my timeline that let me sneak that first smoke and setup the machine.

“Ready?” The tech didn’t really wait for an answer and touched the screen.

For a moment, my body felt “wrong”.

After the ripple, the cancer was gone… well, never happened I guess.

As I got up to leave, I reached in my jacket pocket for the fried cherry pie the ripple had placed there.

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Author : TJMoore

Captain Thomas Crane squinted into the bright sunlight as he swirled his brandy absentmindedly around in the gold rimmed crystal snifter cradled loosely in his hand. A mahogany skinned attendant wearing only a smile popped another grape into his mouth. The plump fruit burst between his teeth and a little juice trickled from the corner of his mouth and down his chin. The attendant gently blotted it up with a wisp of soft silk and offered him another grape.

In the distance, an osprey cried as it sliced across the deep blue water and snagged a tasty fish in its gleaming talons. The gentle breeze smelled of salt water and tropical flowers as it brushed across his sun bronzed face. Breakers thundered and crashed on a far off beach adding a hint of drama to the afternoon quiet.

The beautiful attendant rose and cleared the remains of his filet minion from the white wicker table. As she swayed across the deck she smiled back at him and said “I hope you enjoyed your lunch”. Captain Crane sighed and inhaled the heady vapor rising from the warm brandy, then downed the last of it in a single swallow.

Reaching behind his head, he felt for the interface plug and pulled it from the socket implanted there. The tropical paradise was obliterated as dark grey rock and dusty mine air assaulted his senses like marauders in the night.

Tom stood and tossed the flavored drink bladder and textured yeast wrapper into the recycler. Wiping his hands on his grimy coveralls, he grabbed his drill and trudged down the dark wet passage back to work.

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