Author : Patrica Stewart

The little boy was sitting in a chair that was clearly designed for an adult. His feet, which didn’t quite reach the floor, swayed back and forth like two tiny crisscrossing pendulums. His arms were wrapped tightly around some sort of red stuffed animal as his saucer-like eyes darted around the interior of the spaceport. His eyes finally came to rest on a man wearing a uniform sitting across from him. Comforted by an official looking adult, the little boy smiled sheepishly.

Captain Pluvia smiled back. “Hi there, buddy. Is this your first trip to the asteroid belt?”

“Yes, mister. This is the first time in my whole life that I ever even left Mars. But I’m a little scared that the spaceship might crash.” He looked down. “But, Daddy says we have to leave. It’s not safe to live here any more.”

“You don’t need to be scared, son. You know, I’ll be flying the ship, and I’m the best pilot in the entire universe. I’ve flown this ol’ ship at least a thousand times. I’ll make sure you get there safely. And don’t be sad about leavin’ Mars. You’re gonna love it on Vista. The gravity is so low that you can practically float. There’s hundreds of kids your age there already. You’ll have so much fun, you’ll forget all about Mars.” He stood up and grabbed his flight bag. “Well, buddy, I have to get ready for liftoff. But listen, if you get scared during the trip, you just tell the flight attendant that you’re a personal friend of the Captain, and to come get me, OK. There’s no need to worry. I’ll take good care of you.” As the Captain started to walk away, he noticed that the boy had relaxed his vise-like grip on his stuffed animal, and his smile became broader, and a lot less apprehensive. Captain Pluvia wished that it were always that easy. As he headed toward the bridge, he thought about how desperate their situation really was. The chance of long term survival on Vista was very slim. But, hell, a slim chance is better than none, right.

As the ship lifted off from the surface of Mars, the captain stared at the dry, barren landscape through the view port. It seemed that the tan colored rocks were turning a little redder every trip. The surface water on Mars had disappeared centuries ago. They’ve been living underground for generations, conserving what little water could be extracted from the permafrost, and recycling every precious drop. But it was a losing battle, and everyone knew it. They’d all have to leave Mars. They started establishing settlements on the asteroids, or the moons of the large planets, wherever water was available. The evacuations were almost complete, but the hardships were just beginning. The refugees would have to survive for thousands of years in their remote outposts, until the third planet cooled enough to start the rain cycle. The scientists say that the third planet is still too young, too volcanic, and too hot to live on. But, hopefully, when it settles down in a few thousand years, it will become a paradise, like Mars was centuries ago. It will have lakes, and rivers, and oceans. And rain! Captain Pluvia had never seen rain, just read about it. He could only imagine what it would be like to stand outside when it rained. Water, falling from the sky, like a gigantic, cold shower. Tiny droplets, splashing off his upturned face, running down his antennae, and collecting in his pouch. He knew that he’d never live to experience rain. But maybe, with a lot of luck and perseverance, his descendants might survive long enough to relocate to the third planet. A very, very slim chance, perhaps, but it’s better than no chance at all.

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Confessions of a Cannibal Sun

Author : Joshua Reynolds

A little flare.

Just a flash on the other side of the sun, our sun, and it was gone.

That was when we knew it had escaped.

We made it in a generator the size of a grown man’s thumb. Just a little thing, a little spark. But it was a hungry thing nonetheless. We fed it fire at first, spoon-fed it on lit matches and glow-sticks. It ate light and drank heat at a prodigious rate. Like an infant at its mother’s teat.

It’s getting colder as I write this. Everything is going dark.

Soon it wanted more. More light, more heat. We had to move it to a quantum singularity tube. It was the size of a basketball within a week and still growing. Still eating. We fed it with a flame thrower and with bundles of light-bulbs. The heat it put off was astounding. We thought we had done it. We had created an artificial power source that would replace fossil fuels, replace nuclear energy.

We were wrong of course. You wouldn’t be reading this if we hadn’t been.

I’m sorry. This is no time for sarcasm.

Almost too dark to write now.

I wish we hadn’t fed it the flashlights.

We realized it wasn’t under our control when it began to reach out of its containment pen and drain the lights in the ceiling. Can you imagine it? The horrible sound of a tendril of living flame uncurling from its parent mass and piercing a quantum buffer? It sounded like a church-bell exploding. The heat washed over us then. More than we thought. Men were turned to ash before they had a chance to scream. It didn’t notice.

In our defense, we never thought it would be intelligent. How we couldn’t see that, in light of its hunger, I can’t explain.

Maybe we were blinded by science.

I’m sorry. Gallows humor.

It left us, left our facility a burnt crater. Those of us who survived almost wished we hadn’t. It had its gravometric pull you see. It distorted the laws of physics around it as it devoured the heat and light of anything it touched. And it got bigger. Ever-increasing mass at an exponential rate.

Then, like a dog on the scent, it noticed our sun hanging serene in the sky.

That was two hours ago.

The sun turned as red as blood forty-five seconds ago.

It will be dead in a matter of minutes. And then, so will we. That’s why I’m writing this. Just in case someone reaches this planet and wonders what happened. Wonders about the trail of gutted, dead suns all leading back to this pathetic little mud-ball of a planet. I’m sorry. We’re sorry. We don’t know how to stop it.

Cold. It’s so cold. Can’t see anything. The sun is gone. Our sun anyway.

How were we to know it would be intelligent?

How were we to know it was a cannibal?

Please forgive us.

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A Mother's Love

Author : Jinque

“How much further is it, sweetheart?” from the backseat of the car, Mitchell stroked his hand across baby Willow’s tiny head, slightly mussing her soft black hair.

“At least two hours. The traffic ahead looks even worse than it has been. Curse you for suggesting we travel on a holiday.” From the driver’s seat, Siana smiled, gently chiding her beloved husband. They’d been married just over a year, and their baby daughter, Willow, was not yet two months.

Siana navigated her way through the traffic, her eyes wide and alert. When they’d left that morning, she’d gotten a feeling in the pit of her stomach: a feeling of dread. Now, as she carefully pulled their car into the far left lane, she felt it returning.

The truck came from the opposite side of the freeway. Breaking free from the threads of cars heading east, it barreled toward the west-bound lane, and Siana saw it instantly. Her temples throbbed, and she thought to scream.

But time stopped. She dreamily rose from the driver’s side window, and peered down, seeing herself poised to howl, and jerk the wheel. The truck was too close though, and moving too quickly. Siana knew it, though she couldn’t say why. Looking in the back of the car, she saw her husband, bowed over the baby, unaware of the danger. Gliding in the window and sitting next to them, she smiled, reaching out to stroke her husband’s jaw, and the baby’s tiny nose. An itch in the back of her mind told her that time would soon resume.

Siana slipped her arms around her husband, and stretched herself over him and the baby, projecting herself as much as she could, to cover them both in a protective embrace.

I love you, Willow. I love you, Mitch.

Time resumed. The screeching impact happened within seconds. In the back seat, Mitchell felt the force of the hit, but nothing more. In his arms, Willow and her seat jolted, but she didn’t cry. It was as if something were holding them.

Later, police noted the incident as a tragedy. The Yosts’ vehicle had been hit, and sent spinning across four lanes of traffic. Thankfully, nothing else struck them, but the damage had been done. The truck’s impact crushed Siana in the front seat, leaving her body barely recognizable. Her husband and child, however, were completely untouched, despite the damage to the car.

In the last report on the tragic death of Siana Yost, the medical examiner noted this in his recordings during the autopsy:

“Patient #66607, Siana Yost, suffered physical marring and deformation during the crash. However, this was not the cause of death. Upon examination, I discovered that she seems to have suffered multiple aneurysms, as well as the loss of neurons to… God knows where. I’ve never seen anything like this in my entire career. Her brain is a mess. It’s as if everything required to make it function simply stopped, and disappeared… but how?”

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The Visitor

Author : Kenny R. Brown

“Hello there; it’s so nice to see you!”

The door slid open noiselessly on a set of hidden tracks. The old man gestured expansively, welcoming his guest.

“I’ve been hoping that you would visit for quite a while now. I’ve hardly had any company at all since… I can’t even remember.”

The old man was moving quickly now, clearing the table, turning on lights, busying himself in the tiny kitchen.

“Now, have a seat. Would you like something to drink; anything to eat?”

The visitor declined a snack, and rather than sitting, simply elected to stay in place near the door. The old man ignored his visitor’s impropriety and took a seat himself.

“So, tell me; what have you been doing since the Others left? Have you been taking care of yourself? To tell you the truth I’ve been beginning to think there was no one else left.”

The visitor started to move into the room, but froze after a single step. The old man moved quickly to his guest, flipping open a hidden panel. He looked pensively at a display inside as he tapped on a keypad he held in his hand.

“Damn! General system fault again.”

Cain, the Immortal pressed the shutdown key on his latest android companion. His eyes began to glisten with tears.

“Goodbye, my friend.”

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The Organ War

Author : C. Hale

After the Organ War, Jerald was called the Last Donor. An odd title for sure, considering that he was actually the first to do a lot of things.

Most importantly, he was the first to figure out that we were nothing but walking organ banks being raised by families rich enough for a clone but not quite rich enough to pay for a cryo tank.

So they kept us in spare rooms and servant quarters. We grew up cooking and cleaning for the family, and when father’s heart failed, there was no need for a waiting list.

He found us that October, living in the old part of town that hadn’t been demolished and reclaimed yet. There were maybe a hundred of us that had fallen through the cracks and been separated from our families. We only knew that the instant one of us was found, they never came back alive. Homeless and illiterate, we scrounged what we could and hid from the world. We probably wouldn’t have lived through the winter if Jerald hadn’t figured out how to turn the electricity on.

We didn’t believe it when he told us. It didn’t make sense! How could it be possible? You couldn’t just murder someone, regardless of whether it happened in a hospital. Most of us just wanted to go back home. And then, Jerald showed us the films.

Eight years later, there were seventeen million of us, most still living with families and waiting for the signal.

The signal came on the tenth anniversary of Jerald’s discovery of the truth, and the world was not prepared. The Organ War lasted two years, five months and one day, and Jerald himself negotiated the terms of surrender from Parliament: No more clones. No more murder. Full citizenship for those of us that had survived the war.

Two years later, Jerald died on the waiting list for a lung transplant.

He died with a smile on his face.

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