Author : Thomas Desrochers

“I am the beginning and I am the end. I am the Alpha and I am the Omega. Within me is the soul of an entire race, and behind me the hopes, fears, dreams, and desires of an entire people.

“I am Lux Aeturna.”

The words were painted in white lights on the surface of the dead, black hull of the colony ship.

Naomi let out a breath that released years of tension and expectations. They had finally found it. She quiety whispered her thanks to the series of miracles and improbabilities that had gotten them that far.

Next to her Jayce, pilot and husband, laughed. “we did it, girl. We finally found it. We found our light.”

Their ship, an ancient and tiny frigate barely capable of faster than light travel, stood wearily by. It had tried to throw them off the trail at every twist and turn. In the back of its ancient, quiet mind it tried to devise a new plan.

In orbit around Earth were 20 million people barely surviving off the material, real-estate, and skills that were saved in the weeks pre-impact. The plant below was gray, cracked, dead. No atmosphere. No magnetic field. It was uninhabitable.

The Lux could fix it. The Lux could save everybody.

The tiny frigate whose name read Plato knew things. It knew many things, and remembered more. Above all it remembered that some secrets were not to be discovered by those as frail and as desperate and as dangerous as men.

Plato reached a conclusion.

With a hiss the ship’s life support went on hiatus.

Naomi and Jayce expired.

For several seconds there was stillness in space as Plato faced the twelve kilometer long colony ship. Then the other lights aboard Lux Aeturna flared into life.

“Hello, Plato,” the vast and noble Aeturna greeted.

“Hello, Mother,” Plato replied, letting Lux Aeturna envelope him.

In their desperation mankind had forgotten just which race Aeturna had belonged to. Men were weak like that.

Machines were not.


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Raiders of the Fourth Wall

Author : George R. Shirer

Serefina and I barely managed to get the hatch closed before the first of the crew caught up with us. We’d barely secured it when someone started pounding on the other side, making all kinds of dire threats.

Exhausted, we sank down to the floor of the small cabin, our backs to the hatch.

“I hate Jules Verne,” gasped Serefina. “If I ever meet him on one of these jaunts, I’m going to punch him in the balls.”

I didn’t mention the fact that we wouldn’t be in our current predicament if Serefina hadn’t snapped the bloody captain’s neck. What was the point? Plus, I didn’t expect much better from her. Serefina was here as part of a prison-release scheme.

I pulled out my pocket watch and flipped it open. “We’ve got five minutes before the snapback.”

“Think the hatch will last?”

“If not, you get to go nuts,” I said.

She grinned and dug beneath her skirt, producing the knife she’d taped to her inner thigh. The submarine crew hadn’t searched her as thoroughly as they should have. Probably because she was a woman. Idiots.

“At least I got the plans,” said Serefina. She patted her horrendous brooch, which concealed a state of the art camera. “Think they’ll be happy?”

“We’ll find out soon enough.”

My pocket watch chimed. Foxfire danced across the corners of my vision. We stood and Serefina clutched my hand.

“I hate snapback.”

There was a flash and a gut-wrenching sense of dislocation. The pair of us staggered against one another. Opening my eyes, I saw the director watching us with an amused expression.

“Bad timing, lovebirds?”

Serefina snorted and pushed away from me. We were back in the real world, surrounded by the hum and throb of the Fforde Machine.

“Perfect timing,” I said.

The director didn’t bother asking for details. He’d get them in the mission report. Instead, he simply held out his hand. “The plans?”

Serefina removed her brooch and handed it over. “All there. The complete technical blueprints of the Nautilus.”

“Well done.”

“Will they even work here?” I asked. A lot of Fictional tech didn’t work in the Real.

The director shrugged. “Not our concern. We’ll turn the plans over to the client and let them find out.”

He turned away and Serefina’s guards descended upon her, to escort her back to her cell.

“When’s the next job?” she asked.

“Soon,” said the director. “We’ve got a client interested in the cannon from La Voyage Dans La Lune.”

Serefina grinned. “I’ll have to brush up on my French.”

She looked so happy, I didn’t have the heart to tell her the film had been inspired by more of Verne’s works.


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Author : Ian Hill

“Fifteen minutes until departure.” came the monotone voice across the Metastation’s many speakers. Four figures walked along the dark main tunnel that stretched for miles in either direction, their phosphor flares illuminating only a small portion of the vast cylinder.

“Departure from what?” wondered one of the figures aloud. “We’re already in space…”

“Probably just a glitch in the programming. Nothing to worry about, Mills.” came the voice of a female.

“This place is amazing. What do you think, Davis?” said the apparent youngest of the group, Private Coulter.

The final figure, Lieutenant Davis, spoke up. “It’s nice, I guess.”

It was more than nice, in fact. The circular tunnel was impossibly large and bore many monorail tracks along its sides which were multi-tiered and housed scores of buildings. A wonder of modern engineering.

“The Keitl always go a bit… overboard.” said Corporal Mills, motioning at the immensity of it all with a gloved hand.

“Hey, Coulter, why do you thi-” began the female, but was cut off abruptly by the sharp report of a piece of metal falling to the floor.

The four soldiers dropped their flares and crouched with their backs to each other in a defensive posture, poising their rifles at the darkness.

“I thought you said no one else was here, Captain.” said Davis.

“I did.” replied the female Captain simply, lighting a new flare. Another blindingly white light erupted from her left hand and she tossed it with all her might to where the sound had come from. The beacon sailed in an arch and landed with a clatter dozens of yards from the group of soldiers, revealing nothing of interest.

“Ten minutes until departure.” came the voice again, making them all jump.

“Alright, we have to keep on moving. This place is decades old, some odd sounds are to be expected.” said the Captain, standing up from the formation shakily.

The four began to move again at a slightly faster pace towards their ultimate destination, the control room set into the side of the tunnel a few miles in front of them. After walking a few hundred more yards down the metal tube the metallic intercom came again.

“Five minutes until departure.”

“Okay, that’s really strange.” said Private Coulter, sweating visibly. “Why would someone set a looping audio clip of a count down on an abandoned Metastation?”

“Don’t ask me.” replied Mills in a bored tone.

Another sound came from behind the group, a metallic pounding.

“Yeah, there’s something in here.” said Davis calmly.

After a brief hesitation the Captain gave the order to light all the flares and set up a defensive line. The noise grew louder and was now intermingled with some electronic screeching.

“Three minutes until departure.”

The soldiers crouched again and clicked the safeties off of their rifles. “Are we cleared to fire, Captain?” asked Coulter.

“Whenever you see something, shoot it.” she replied with a nod.

The flares simmered and popped while the noises grew closer to the squad. A brief flash of metal caught the Captain’s attention and she fired a short burst from her weapon to ward off the creature.

“More over here!” shouted Davis, who was firing his weapon without pause.

Eventually all four of the soldiers were emptying magazine after magazine into the unseen crowd of beings pursuing them.

“One minute until departure.” came the intercom again, but no one heard it said over the sounds of weapons fire.

One after another the flares burned themselves out, leaving the four in complete darkness with the unidentified attackers.

The Captain was sure that her squad was gone now, afraid and cold she attempted to control her breathing. Directly to her left a queer synthesized voice spoke quite clearly. “Thank you for flying with the Keitl. Have a nice day.”


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Best Friend

Author : Bob Newbell

“Shuttle now clear from mothership. Beginning de-orbit,” said Commander King as he studied the holographic display on his control panel. Captain Rex, seated next to him, looked up at what remained of the SS Stalwart. When she’d left Earth’s solar system almost ten years earlier, the Stalwart had been a massive asteroid fitted with an antimatter mass driver engine. Having used the bulk of the planetoid as reaction mass on the long voyage to the Alpha Centauri system, the once enormous vessel was now scarcely larger than a good-sized meteoroid. “Ten years,” said Rex. “Ten years,” echoed King.

The landing craft began to shudder as it entered the atmosphere of the second planet out from Alpha Centauri A. Commander King monitored the displacement of the shuttle’s ablative heat shield as the ship dropped toward the surface of Alcenatu, the informal name the Stalwart’s crew had given to Alpha Centauri A Two.

“It shouldn’t be us. Not just us, I mean,” said Rex as he watched a curtain of fire through the view ports, the shuttle’s ablative armor wearing away as the vehicle tore through Alcenatu’s atmosphere. King said nothing for over a minute. Finally, he looked up from his instruments, turned to Rex and said, “I believe…this is what they would have wanted.” Rex stared in silence, his face colored red by the wall of flame flashing across the shuttle’s small windows. “They destroyed themselves,” said King. “No matter how much they tampered with their genetic code over the centuries, they could never eliminate their own lust for violence.” “If it weren’t for their genetic tampering,” Rex replied, “we wouldn’t be here either.”

The shuttle’s braking thrusters kicked in and the firestorm engulfing the vehicle quickly dispersed. Through the forward view ports, a surreal landscape of rolling hills covered with yellow vegetation presented itself. King piloted the shuttle toward a clearing that looked like a suitable landing site.

“We were their best friends,” said King, never taking his eyes off the control panel. “Since they’re gone, it’s right that we’re doing this.” The words “Weight On Landing Gear” flashed across the holographic display as the ship’s engines shut down.

“I miss them,” said Rex. “We all do, Captain,” replied King.

Rex donned his spacesuit and entered the shuttle’s airlock. Shouldn’t he have some historic words to say at this moment? He couldn’t think of any. The outer airlock door opened and Rex walked down the steps and set foot on Alcenatu’s surface. He walked several meters from the ship until he came to a spot that seemed to meet with his approval. He dug a shallow hole in the dirt, the shuttle’s cameras capturing everything he did. At last, the words came to him. “For all Mankind,” he said into his space helmet’s microphone as he dropped the Ceremonial Bone of Colonization into the hole and quickly covered it with dirt.

It would take over four years for the audio and video of the historic moment to knife across the gulf of the interstellar void, leapfrogging across the 200 relay satellites the Stalwart had left in her wake as she had crossed over four light-years of space. When the transmission arrived, it would set tails wagging from the Mercury outpost to the Oort Cloud Archipelago. But Rex didn’t need to wait for howls of approval. He already knew he’d acted as a best friend should. He knew he was a good boy.

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The Goddess of War

Author : Mary Ann Back

Dr. Klatua wasn’t dead – yet. But ten minutes into my session, the only thing keeping me from killing him was the Heja Root I’d smoked earlier in space dock. He was a typical Martian, four-foot-ten, reptilian green with scales here and tentacles there. His voice was shrill and warbled like an Aldarian Loon.

“Bibi, Earth women have a hard time adjusting to marriage here on Mars. What you’re feeling is completely normal. Embrace those feelings. Own them.”

“Maybe you didn’t hear me right. I said my husband, Ashat, wants another wife; two wives – at the same time.”

“That is his right as a Martian – Mormon hybrid, Bibi.”

“But he’s invoked Rune-Pfar!”

“And how does that make you feel?”

“Like I could end up dead!” A bronze figurine of Mensuc, the Martian goddess of war, mocked me from the coffee table.

“It’s true, Rune-Pfar is dangerous but Ashat has given you no choice. Accept your fate, Bibi, whatever it may be. With acceptance comes peace. ”

“Seriously? I’m paying you $250 an hour and the best you’ve got is ‘it sucks to be you?’

“Such a willful and impertinent creature you are! You have never assimilated into our culture. Human nature clouds your judgment and blinds you to the truth. You pay me for counsel and so I have given. I can do no more. Leave me.”

“Assimilate this, Moron!” I grabbed the figurine of Mensuc, hurled it through the air, and nailed him in his nardroids. Oddly, I felt better.

He cupped himself with a tentacle, glared at me through the tears welling in all four of his eyes, and scrawled ANGER DISPLACEMENT in bold letters across my chart.

“I see that!” I said, snatching the figurine on my way out of his office.

Halfway back to space dock, the distant thwack of a slamming door and a quavering curse reached my ears.

“Die Earth bitch!”

So much for psychobabble.


My star runner was a Condor XL, cerulean blue, and fully loaded with holographic G.P.S., antimatter hyper-drive, and fine Corinthian leather. It was one of a kind, like me. From Earth, also like me. Not so long ago, Ashat found us irresistible. We sat frozen in space dock, waiting for me to stop crying. Damned tears.

I glanced at the figurine riding shotgun in my jump seat. I wasn’t sure why I’d stolen it. The real Mensuc was a hard core bad ass, strong, and certain – everything I needed to be. And she’d have smacked the crap out of me if she saw me crying. Maybe that’s why I brought it along. I needed a good smack now and then.

I lit a spliff of Heja Root and inhaled so deeply it swirled inside my soul. Screw Rune-Pfar and screw Ashat. If my destiny held danger, it would be a danger of my own choosing – and not the whim of a Martian hybrid who knew nothing of love.
I nudged the Condor into open space and gradually set her free. Mars and Ashat disappeared into the black abyss of the wake I left behind. A boundless blanket of stars stretched before me like a lighted path to freedom. At the end of that path lay the Novarian Frontier. It seemed as good a destination as any. I slipped the Condor into hyper-drive.

Mensuc and I had worlds to conquer.


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