Keep Your Head

Author : Clint Wilson

The herd of Separable Hybrates fed veraciously on the nutritious fungus. You had to get your fill when you could and patches like this didn’t usually strike up so abundantly this early on.

The old matriarch was larger than the rest, and her feeding tubes liquefied and drew in more fungus than most. As she cleared patches and clumps, her four main legs carried her slowly along toward more and more of the delicious food. Ahead of her six forelegs — which had long since stopped detaching for mating purposes- stood her head, which contained her forebrain and four thinner appendages.

As her six fore, four main and six aft load-bearing legs provided all the support, her quartet of head appendages typically hung limply, until they were needed of course, which was suddenly now.

As her mid body continued to feed hungrily, her head appendages straightened and made contact with the ground. As if on cue the matriarch’s wide face grimaced and her head detached from the rest of her body with a wet sound, millions of tiny nerve endings and muscles releasing their miniscule handshakes simultaneously. And away her crown bobbed across the field on those four spindly legs. This part handled all communications and upper level decision making, and there was business afoot with neighboring herds, important business regarding territory agreements, pasture sharing and the like. The head would be back again soon enough. A neighboring animal’s crown also detached and joined the matriarch’s, and as the two disembodied heads trundled off toward the neighboring ridge their host bodies continued to feed, their aft brains handling all necessary functions.

Nearby the sextet of another creature’s aft legs wandered by, returning a posterior section back to its host after a necessary bit of waste dumping in the nearby pit. And so did the animals function, their efficient bodies gaining maximum nourishment while detachable parts carried on about other important business.

The matriarch had now cleared an area of fungus twice the size of her home cave and it wasn’t even midday yet. Suddenly her head appeared on the ridge. Her aft brain was vaguely aware of its missing part’s proximity and imminent return through mild telekinesis, yet on it fed unwavering.

Soon enough the head returned and replaced itself onto the matriarch’s body without ceremony. Suddenly turned around in the other direction her face showed instant surprise and alarm as she spied the returning head of her advisor that had fallen quite far behind on its shorter and weaker limbs. But what had the old leader so concerned was the diving Skyrat.

For once the matriarch stopped eating, and turned all bladder valves skyward. She trumpeted a deafening call meant to both warn her wayward companion and possibly scare off the approaching marauder as well.

Skyrats were too small to lift one of her species whole but a separated head was relatively easy pickings for one of the strong predators. Sadly the attacker was not deterred in the least by her warning and the next thing she knew, the head and forebrain of her trusted advisor were picked up and carried off into the sky to be devoured.

Full of melancholy the matriarch went over to console the body of her now headless companion. She rubbed against it, sending thoughts through nerve endings. “Don’t worry,” she thought. “Maybe one day we’ll find you a stray,” knowing full well that stray heads were as rare as stray posteriors were plentiful. She then added a thoughtful gesture, “If you need to talk with your family at all, you can borrow my head.”


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Author : A. R. Coy

A fine layer of crimson dust covered the streets and filled the transporter with a red haze. Freetown claimed to be the finest of the planet’s three cities, which only made the scene drearier. Deals were made here that were banned throughout the galaxy. Josiah and Brent, smugglers, felt right at home.

Fronting each building were strung-out stoners, panhandlers, and hookers trying to catch their eye. Children – dressed in scraps, covered in dirt – stretched their emaciated arms into the windows begging. Most sniffed rags drenched in cheap intoxicants. The smugglers gave each hand a meal ration, a day’s supply of nutrition. Nothing more could be done. This planet offered no hope, no future.

They were to rendezvous with Chyna to exchange cargo. She had come before the great revolt and refused to leave after. Hundreds had passed through her school — trained as teachers, leaders, and medics. The overthrow of the planet’s Tribunal changed all that. Humanitarian groups had been ordered to leave; Chyna had gone underground.

Brent pointed to a Xv spraypainted over a door. The building changed each visit, the symbol — a Greek twist on her name – was always the same. Josiah nodded and after a quick look around, backed the transporter into the loading bay.

Chyna walked out of the darkness. “Any trouble?”

“No. Where do you want the crates?” Josiah said.

“The corner is fine. We’ll move them later.”

They unloaded four large, unmarked crates.

“Is the return cargo ready?”

Chyna nodded. With a quick wave seven women shuffled out — no, girls really – none appeared older than fourteen. As she spoke their name they hurried into the transporter.

“Meena, Velria, Tinah, Joni, Aprela, Kinndra, Rondeen — they were purchased from brothels across town. They have started detox, but will need to continue the process. Got it?” Then more to herself she said, “Or they’ll be so desperate they’ll just return to trouble. An endless trap.”

“Any others?” Josiah asked.

“All this information needs to be passed along, understand?”

“We’ve done this before Chyna,” Josiah responded tempering the annoyance he felt.

“I know.” Sighing, she continued. “Twenty in all.” She called to the dark, “Reid, Fuun, Gooty, Baln, Vinter, Garret, Timo, San.”

Eight boys under the age of ten walked out hesitantly.

“Shoo, shoo. Load quickly.” Brent led them onto the transporter and left Josiah to get the details.

“They all came from the scavenger blocks and one kidnapping away from the slave mines. They are all clean, luckily the sniffing has less of a hold. I have great hopes for them.”

Josiah nodded. He hated this part; hearing their stories. He would just as soon be off.

“Just five more…Suzza, Breesh, Kendy, Neena, Pahla.” These were women, but no older than early twenties. “Runaways. They are your greatest risk. They were given as gifts by their fathers to powerful men in exchange for favor. These men will be looking for them.”

Josiah swore. “Then I’d better be off.” He turned, but Chyna grabbed his arm.

“I am trusting you. You will get them to the refugee transitional safely? I know there is not profit in this.”

“Sis, I may be a smuggler, but I’m not a human trafficker. Think of me as a smuggler with a conscience. Besides, I’m your big brother. You would think that would count for something.” He flashed her a large grin. “I’ll get them there.”

With a quick squeeze of his arm she faded back into her underground world.

Josiah stared into the darkness for a moment, turned and boarded his ship.

“Everyone buckle up. Next stop freedom.”


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Something to Not Forget

Author : Jeremy Herman

Did you know coal can be reduced to liquid? With enough heat and pressure it’s possible. The government discovered this once they ran out of oil but they still needed to power their war machines. Right now Coleman felt like one of those dull pieces of rock. He felt like the world around him was squeezing the life out of him. Soon he would get relief. Coleman walked past smudged faces as he entered the lab building. He worked in a coal mining town now, but the images from the war still hung with him.

He had served 4 tours overseas and he only had scars to prove he was there, no medals. The things he witnessed still haunted him. The screams. The smells. Some nights he would wake up in pools of sweat. It had been weeks since he had a good sleep. He felt like a reanimated corpse in the mines trying to operate off just a few hours.

That would all be over soon though. He was in the waiting room of the government sponsored lab that would help him with his PTSD. He had an honorable discharge after his service and decided to settle in this small mining town. Here the pay was minimal but he could still scrape by. He actually had joined the army because he thought he would be able to get ahead in life. Save some money, maybe find a wife. Little did he know the price he would pay with reoccurring nightmares each night. Now the small nest egg he had would go to help defer the cost of treating his stress disorder.

He was called into the back office and the doc looked at him with kind eyes. The doctor said he was grateful for his service to the nation. Coleman nodded slowly still feeling the effects of nights without sleep. The doctor told him he had a new way to treat soldiers that had only been tried on a few patients. It was experimental but ten times more effective then any of the current ways to treat his disorder.

“What if I could help you forget everything. What would you say to that?”

“You have my attention doc. Give me the details.”

“The process is quite complex and involves selective neural destruction. We will use dyes to map the connections in your brain associated with the war and destroy them. It will be as if you never had fought.” Coleman stared ahead dumbly trying to comprehend the magnitude of this decision.

“You don’t have to respond right now. I can understand if you need time to think it over.” Coleman turned to face the doctor and stared into both his eyes. “I can’t keep living this way. My memories are killing me. Do what you have to do and make it fast.” Hours later Coleman was discharged from the lab with a new neural map.

Weeks passed and it was work as usual. The mines churned out loads of coal to support the war effort. Coleman worked with renewed vitality but no one ever got rich from the work. As soon as the money came in it flowed out again for rent and food. What a dismal way for anyone to live! If only there was a way to get ahead. On the way to work Coleman saw a recruitment poster and paused to write down the number. Maybe they would take him?


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Better Safe…

Author : Kevin Ware

It was only because of the eighty years that the first probe had been studied that the true meaning of the next was clear. The teams of muttering specialists who had travelled to Alberta to examine the wreckage in exhaustive detail had wrung every last shred of information from the charred and flattened hulk.

It was a simple probe. It was not the last of its kind. It had travelled a long way, but only by our standards. It was from outside the solar system, but only a bit. The best expert thought was that some kind of ship had lobbed this one (and presumably others) into the inner solar system to see if any of the planets there had something of interest to take. Technology, life, artifacts?

Listening post after listening post confirmed the path of the compact and unnaturally reflective object doing a gravity-assisted momentum dump around Jupiter. A few million calculations carefully run by a small woman hunched over a cup of cooling coffee quickly determined what several telescope jockeys had already guessed weeks before. This was another probe, seemingly identical to the first, heading inbound for the center of the largest landmass of Earth. It would land just to the east of Lake Baikal, in the Russian Federation, in seven hundred and fourteen days.

After months of intense hotheaded political debate and scattered but intense societal unrest, it was decided by the powerful but ultimately cowardly leaders of this small insignificant marble of a planet that we did not want to be known. The risk was far too great. It would be better to remain small and insignificant and lonely than to have to face the other.

As the probe was still out of visual observation range and passing behind Saturn for a last slingshot braking, hundreds of carefully arrayed nuclear warheads rained down on the shores of Lake Baikal and the diverse wildlife until recently protected there.

Fifty billion miles away on a small Spartan school ship, a young student frowned at her wrap-around panel of telemetry displays as the probe’s cameras focused on a desolate lifeless wasteland, crushing any hopes she had at further funding.


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My Feminine Ideal

Author : Ray Gregory

I could get any woman in this bar I want, but she’s the one. I mean, what a babe: blond, built, just check out those knockers! Now she’s hitting on me even harder than I’m hitting on her, like neither of us can wait.

We find a corner table. The place is packed, everybody busy with their own chatting and hooking up. So who’ll notice, right? I slide a hand under her skirt, inch my fingers up her warm, silky inner thigh.

She grabs my wrist. “Not here, big boy. Let’s blow this dive.”

“Sure, babe” — I can’t even remember her name. “My car’s right out front.”

Her eyes twinkle. “So’s my van. It’s plenty comfy too.” She drags her tongue across her gleaming teeth, then her full, ripe lips.

Next thing I know, I’m pushing through the crowd, hustling her out of the place. We stumble to her van, groping each other all the way. She yanks open the back door. “Climb in there, big boy.”

I bow, sweep my hand. “Lady’s first.” I mean, why not ogle her fine ass wriggling into that van?

She grins, swats my ass. “Forget the gentleman act. Get in there — and get ready.”

I giggle like the drunken — and excited — fool I am, then climb into the dark interior.

“That’s a good boy,” then she slams the door closed behind me!

“What the…” I spin, grope for the door handle, but there isn’t one. No windows either. I feel around in the darkness. Just the smooth, cold metal door and walls.

“Don’t be afraid.” It’s her voice from a speaker. She sounds weirdly professional now. “We’re still gonna — mate, but under controlled conditions.”

“Mate? Who the hell are you? Let me outta here.” I bang on the metal walls with my fists. It’s like I’m trapped in some black-as-hell echo chamber. Help me, somebody. Anybody?

“Don’t worry. The subjective experience should even be pleasurable. Isn’t pleasure, especially the pleasure of sex, what you care about most?”

“Stupid bitch!” I pound the door. “What the hell kinda freak are you?”

She snickers. “I seem to be smarter, and more human, than you.”

“Let — me — outta — here.”

“Just lie down now and get comfortable, then I’ll — join you.”

I bang even harder. “Let me the fuck outta here!”

“Don’t be such a baby. Didn’t I tell you there’s nothing to fear? What, are you even afraid of yourself?”

I stop banging. “What are you talking about, you crazy bitch?”

“You still don’t get it, do you? I’m you — half of you anyway. I’m your feminine side. You suppressed me years ago. That’s why you’re purely male now, and such an asshole.”

I stumble backward. “What the…”

“Remember the last time your girlfriend, Brenda Olsen, discovered you cheating on her? That was the last straw for Brenda. So one night while you were sleeping, she had a team from Psychotronic Simulations scan your brain.”

“Brenda? She what?”

“Psychotronic Simulations reverse engineered a new and enhanced version of your mind’s feminine side, namely — me. The body I used to lure you into the neurofusion chamber was just a luxury sexbot.”

My jaw drops. Suddenly I’m more scared than drunk.

“You see, Brenda arranged an intervention, or more precisely, an integration. It’ll be a wonderful merger too: you and me, a complete person again, plus monogamous and faithful too. So be a good boy now and lie down for me. It’ll be easier if you just relax, just think about — oh, maybe flowers and butterflies.”


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