Parallel

Author : Bob Newbell

Rancent-1664 walked into the office of his Preceptor, Ferrin-3411, and waited to be acknowledged. “Enter, Rancent,” Ferrin said to his understudy. Rancent's thirteen pairs of legs glided the excited young scientist up to the workstation of his superior.

“Preceptor, I've found it! An Earth in another brane with a technological civilization!” Rancent's antennae quivered as he spoke.

Ferrin-3411 looked at the eager physicist and said, “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof, young professor.”

“But I have the proof, Preceptor! Over the last eight weeks I've sent countless probes across into the other brane. Each time they could only linger for a very few moments before collapsing back into our brane-space. But the computer has been able to process and collate the data from the probes.”

Ferrin looked skeptical. “The volume of data you're talking about would be staggering.”

“It was! I had to get permission to use nearly the entire Lunar Processing Array for a brief time.”

“Nearly the entire array?” asked Ferrin, impressed that his apprentice was able to obtain such permission on his own.

“From the surface to the core,” said Rancent.

“And after a Moon-sized computer chewed on your data what was the conclusion?”

“Preceptor, I have found an Earth inhabited by intelligent mammals.”

Ferrin let that sink in. Rancent was a good scientist. Precise, methodical, respectful of orthodoxy but not bound by it. He was not the type who would make such a seemingly outrageous assertion. Ferrin could accept a parallel Earth with some sort of non-trilobite intelligence. But mammals? It sounded like the plot of some frivolous piece of speculative fiction.

Sensing that his mentor was not entirely convinced, Rancent said, “Preceptor, you will recall the discovery by Blorek-2832 of a parallel brane containing an Earth populated by reptiles?”

“Of course,” said Ferrin. “Blorek's discovery is the most significant in the history of brane exploration.”

Up till now, thought Rancent, who then replied, “Blorek theorized that life on the Earth in the universe he discovered developed much as it did here until a mass extinction event killed off the primitive trilobites. This, he suggested, may have allowed the reptilians to develop and eventually rise to dominate the planet.”

“That part of Blorek's theory is still controversial. But it does fit the facts. You propose that in the world you discovered a catastrophe destroyed the trilobites and the mammals rose to prominence?”

“That's one possibility,” said Rancent. “Or, perhaps, the reptilians came to dominate this newly discovered Earth as well for a time and they in turn were wiped out by a cataclysm that allowed the mammals to ascend. The data I've collected is most consistent with this latter scenario.”

“So you plan to ask the Brane Exploration Authority for the allocation of more probes to investigate this new world to confirm or deny your theory?”

“I had a somewhat different idea in mind, Preceptor.”

“Such as?”

“I want to ask the inhabitants.”

“What?!”

“That would be the most efficient way to find out. Based on the level of technology the mammals appear to possess, it's likely that they're advanced enough to have string theory. Parallel branes have likely been at least theorized by their physicists.”

Communication between two intelligent civilizations in two branes, thought Ferrin. In his mind, Ferrin pictured trilobitomorphic rodents discussing 11-dimensional membrane theory. He laughed.

“Preceptor?” asked Rancent, afraid his mentor was not taking him seriously.

Ferrin gave Rancent a gesture of reassurance. “Just wondering how one addresses an intelligent mammal,” he said as he opened a communication channel to the Brane Exploration Authority.

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The Locket

Author : Mae Thann

“Akita General to base, do you read me?”

A crackling voice finally answered. “Base to Akita General. Report.”

“I have visual on Target Cougar. Akita Pack is out of reach. Request permission to pursue alone.” From my vantage point near the edge of the forest, I felt more like a cougar, watching my prey as it fed in the meadow.

“Is target alone?”

“Affirmative.”

“Permission to pursue. Be careful: she’s dangerous.”

I pulled the locket out from under my shirt – they’d kill me if they knew – and kissed it. “I know. Hail the emperor; Akita General out.”

She was all mine. I’d been hunting her for a good third of my career and now she was here, just within my reach, ready for my revenge. Reaching for my plasma pistol, I kept as low as I could amongst the tall, waving grasses while my target ambled on. It was almost aggravating, really. I was used to the chase, the thrill. Would all my work wind down to an easy shot to the back?

I clutched the locket again. No, we were going to see each other face-to-face. This rebel captain was going to pay for my sister’s disappearance five years ago and she was going to know it. I announced my presence. She whirled around and, quicker than the speed of light, drew her own plasma pistol.

I felt the blood drain from my face, whether from shock or anger, I don’t know. Her eyes widened likewise, but I gave her no chance to respond. I rushed her, keeping her gun away from me, but losing mine in the struggle. Finally, I had her down. My knife over her throat, her gun to my head, the locket dangling between us.
“I don’t want to,” she said.

My throat constricted. “Neither do I.” I drew a shuddering breath. “Hail the emperor.”

Half of the bloody locket now rests in a war museum. People have speculated, created wild tales.

But none of them ever guessed that I’d walked away with a broken heart and my sister’s blood on my hands.

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Your Species Needs You!

Author : David Kavanaugh

YOUR SPECIES NEEDS YOU!

That’s right, you! All of you brave men and women out there who watched the skies light up on January 8th and felt your hearts swell with rage, passion, and love of species. Never forget that day, brave humans, for the Silvers certainly will not! Honor the memory of those fallen. Enlist today, receive your Flock Implant, and join the ranks of the heroic Skyforce. Launch into orbit… and into history!

Or do you want to be left behind when all your friends have enlisted and are valiantly soaring through the enemy ranks? When victory is ours, do you want to be the only one on the block without a good-luck Silver toe to hang proudly about your neck?

We know you do not want that! We know you are better than that, braver than that!

And our Flock Implants are safer than ever, now delivering a feeling of euphoria as they join your consciousness with your unit. No more migraines or depression! Now you battle in the skies a seamless unit, a bird on the wing with its brothers and sister on either side to support it, and never feel lost or alone again. Or is your individuality worth more than the survival of the human race?

The only question you need to ask yourself is this: Are you a true patriot, or aren’t you?

So what are you waiting for? Report to your nearest recruitment center today, and help save the world!

Brought to you by the United Skyforce.

Skyforce, Taking Back the Earth!

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Party for Two

Author : Kevin Richards

I stepped up the walk of the gravel drive, breathing in the cool, quiet night air. Ringing the doorbell, I was greeted by a sharply dressed woman with a pleasant smile. “I’m here for the party,” I said, pulling the invitation out of my jacket.

“Right this way.” We went down a hallway, and she opened the door to a ballroom. Balloons and a banner marked the door. I stepped inside, eager to meet the guests.

I’d spent some time trying to look nice for this. I had gone shopping and got designer skinny jeans, new sneakers, a silk black tie, crisp white shirt and a tailored blazer. “Evening,” I said amicably as I stepped into an empty room.

A bar sat in one corner, and tables with an assortment of hors d’ouevres sat on one wall. The only other person was a man slumped in a wheelchair. His only movement was to dart his eyes suddenly to me. Without moving a muscle he looked shocked.

“Party is a little dead professor,” I said. “Perhaps you should have sent the invitations out a little sooner. Says today’s date alright, the 28th, but it’s a bit of an issue since you sent these out on the 30th.”

“To tell the truth, I wasn’t expecting anyone.” The professors synthesized voice sounded bemused.

“And, trust me, you weren’t disappointed. At least in my timeline anyways. This one seems much more interesting. I like it already. Champagne?” I popped the cork and poured two bubbling glasses.

“I’ll pass. We have a lot to talk about.”

“Indeed we do. In fact, I’d propose a toast- to you professor, for laying the groundwork that made this possible.” I drank a generous amount, grinning. “I’d expect this place to be packed. If travel backwards along this timeline is possible, where is everybody? I even went so far as to get 2009 Summer Quarter GQ so I’d look appropriate.”

“Perhaps it’s because you are the only person in this timeline to travel backwards this far. Or maybe the only backwards time traveler ever.”

“Interesting. Anyways, I thought I’d give you this.” I reached into jacket and removed a stack of papers. “Copy of Klein and Li’s paper on String Theory. Won the Nobel in ’34. They cite you quite heavily. See, you aren’t so much wrong as you-”

The doors burst open. Two men in black suits marched in. “You! With us! Now!”

“Who the hell are you? What the-” The suit on the right snatched the stack of papers, and the one on the left slapped a cuff around my wrist. What looked like a solid steel bar molded around my wrists. There was a prick on my neck and everything began to slow. Pointing back, they yelled “You didn’t see anything!”

As I was dragged from the room, everything fading, I heard the professor’s synthesized voice, “Or perhaps Time Travel is better regulated than most industries…”

 

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Dis' Country

Author : James Zahardis

Ambassador Xiao, with decades of political service and negotiation of the Nigerian Treaty still evoked an inauspicious “Is this the best we’ve got?” when it was Worldcast that he would be sent to Arizona. He was a paunchy sexagenarian, whom one would expect to find on the golf course–not stepping off a combat glider into a Red Zone.

Xiao saluted General Allistar who pointed to the monumental basalt a quarter-mile away. Xiao switched his aviator sunglasses to binocular mode and shut his eyes. The preceding week reeled before him: his office with its shadow boxes brimming with medallions; his cup of Masala chai that went cold; and the live-feed of the sky over the canyon lands south of Flagstaff, as spacetime was broached.

Xiao opened his eyes. Cathedral Rock encompassed his field-of-view. He walked toward the rock.

“You want backup?” the General asked.

“It’s best if I do this on my own.”

Within three-hundred meters of the rock’s base the invaders appeared. Xiao retained his composure despite their crab-like forms, and multitudinous, undulating feelers.

“We expected Grays–not creatures out of Lovecraft or Bosch…” Xiao thought as they approached. Intelligence suspected they were foot soldiers. A larger one had a ‘boom-tube’ strapped across its back: it looked like a flute, yet a pulse from it disintegrated a jet squadron. Several horseshoe crab-size aliens clamored at Xiao’s feet. He noticed a red glow near his breast pocket originating from a stylus-shaped object in the tentacles of one of the aliens.

“Scanning for weapons? A bio-analyzer?” he wondered.

The aliens vanished. A downdraft wafted an odor into the canyon that reminded Xiao of cheap plastic Halloween costumes.

An eight-foot tall monstrosity materialized in front of him.

“A chimera!” the ambassador thought, staring at the alien’s reptilian-looking body, humanoid posture, and tufts of tentacle in place of a neck. Its face was mouthless and covered with obsidian disks. A cat-sized, spider-like creature was at its feet. It strode forward and looped a chain around Xiao’s neck. The tentacles of the chimera undulated and Xiao felt an odd sensation in his brain.

“Qan-tho’manos, representative of Dis–sympathies for battle-fallen offered,” the chimera-like being communicated.

“I am here on behalf of the President of the Republic of Sino-America and the United Nations of Earth. We welcome you and regret our unfortunate initial encounter,” Xiao replied.

“Dis from fringes observed–great cruelty of your race did learn–darkly dream of your humankind Dis spawn and minds of artists poisoned–a relief over Qlz’drn City on Great Sky-Vault your races brutality depicts,” Qan-tho’manos communicated.

Qan-tho’manos paused. The ambassador saw his reflection, like tiny tadpoles in oily pools, in the representative’s obsidian disks.

“Blended all Dis from galaxy sentient creations–life-code sacred in mutability infinite–last war humans–soldiers bearing life-code corrupted–killing efficient–abhorrent–now Dis came must.”

“But we negotiated peace an–eh–”

The ambassador’s mouth fused together.

“War for generations Dis not have–this peace to you extend we.”

The ambassador fell to the ground. His arms and legs were contracting and his epidermis hardening.

“Myranx your race becomes–humility learn will–servitude to Dis.”

Xiao was now a crab-like creature with the vestige of a man’s face. His final human memory was of the Nigerian Conference, when he negotiated world peace and ended the deployment of genetically enhanced troops; his final human emotion was compunction, realizing it had come too late.

END

 

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