LOLcats

Author : Joshua Reynolds

“Can I has cheeseburger?” the cat whined plaintively. It’s voice was an electronic squeal that grated on Jim’s nerves. Jim swatted the cat on the butt and pushed it off of the desk.

“No.”

“Plz?” it mewled up at him, eyes unblinking. Jim shook his head.

“I said no.”

“OMG.” the cat yowled. Jim threw up his hands and tried to focus on his work. Schematics for cybernetic voice-boxes filled the screen of his laptop. EMP hardened as most things were these days. No help there. There had to be-

“ROFL!” a cat screeched, rolling onto its back on the desk, swiping at him.

“Shut up!” Jim shoved it to the floor.

“Happy cat is out of happy.” another cat burbled, laying flat on the floor behind his chair.

He glanced at it and went back to work, muttering, “Happy cat is out of happy because happy cat snorts catnip like it was going out of style. Happy cat needs to knock that shit off before happy cat burns out his teeny-tiny brain.”

“Plz can I has cheeseburger?” the first cat purred, leaping into his lap and rubbing its head against his arm.

“No, no, no! A hundred times no!” Jim banged his head against his desk. “Just shut up!”

“I has bucket!” a third cat yowled from the top of a bookcase. Jim whirled.

“Get out of that flower pot!”

“I can fix it.” a fourth cat mumbled, fumbling at Jim’s laptop. Jim turned back and swatted it away from him. His computer screen hiccuped.

“Don’t touch that!”

“Cheeseburger!”

“No! No cheeseburger!” Jim buried his face in his hands. “No damn cheeseburger.”

It had seemed like such a good idea. People loved cats. People loved those stupid pictures. Just a slight cybernetic modification to the animal’s larynx and bam! Talking cats. Everybody who was anybody wanted one. For about ten minutes. Then nobody did. The fad ended and he was left holding the bag.

“OMG lurve you.” the cat on his lap grumbled. Jim sighed and stroked it.

“Thank you.”

“Can I has cheeseburger now?”

“AUGH!”

It wasn’t the talking that bothered people really.

It was the fact you couldn’t get the damn things to shut up.

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Crossing The Lines

Author : Michael Varian Daly

Dawn’s light angled off the blank brick walls of the narrow alley. The air shimmered, then expanded like a large soap bubble and softly popped. Iyo stood there for a moment to orientate herself. She glanced up and around. No windows. Bioforms reading only insects and the odd rodent.

“Clear,” she said to no one in particular.

She was flying solo. It would have been nice to have her old unit along, but explaining away a squad of heavily armed Shan dog troopers, five foot canine humanoids, or Corporal Jax, a three quarter ton Marine cyborg, well, the locals might get nervous.

So, Iyo stood in this alley alone, a tall blonde in jeans and a leather jacket. The air reeked of hydrocarbons and decay. The nanites in her lungs and blood were already working hard to offset their effects.

“You’ll get used to it,” she thought, like the dank, moldy air in the catacombs of that scathole Trobathney back…”or forward?” she mused. Transtemporal/Paratemporal operations were still new enough to have not worked out the tenses of their grammatic descriptors.

“Your cover is Camilla Göteborg. You’re a model from Sweden,” her Case Officer said. “Remember, this line is swarming with unmodified males. Refrain from killing them unless you have absolutely no choice.”

Iyo knew all that from the compressed immersion vert. This was just her Real Time cover activation. She also knew she was picked because she looked more like the locals than her mostly dark and therefor potentially ‘exotic’ Sisters.

Not mentioned in the vert briefing was the underlaying reason for this mission. The tactical rationals were addressed in detail. The strategic concepts were clear. The socio-cultural purposes were left unspoken.

Iyo knew them, however. She was only one of hundreds of millions of Sisters who had been born into, and had grown up to fight, The War. It was always there, generation after generation. Once, The Enemy had threatened The Sisterhood with extinction. Now, Victory was almost assured and The War was slowly winding down.

What to do with all these battle hardened warriors?

Retrain them in covert operations and ship them out across all of Creation was the plan The Elders of The Sisterhood devised. Iyo actually thought that a good idea. She knew she’d get into mischief in peacetime and the necessities of ‘blending in’ would help her readjust to non-martial society.

Thus, she found herself in place called Brooklyn.

“Okay, enough woolgathering,” she said using local colloquialisms.

She strode out of the alley, though quaint asphalt and concrete streets, to a promenade overlooking the city’s harbor. The water smelled even worse than the air, but the skyline of the tightly packed urban island across that water held a chaotic beauty.

She knew one of the two ugly boxlike towers that dominated that skyline would be destroyed in the Father/God wars that plagued this period. But that was nearly two decades…’up the line’. Maybe.

“Things change,” she murmured.

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The Last Kremer Prize

Author : J. S. Kachelries

The Gossamer Comet hung motionless 10 meters beyond the Folkestone Colony’s outermost habitation “wheel.” The Gossamer Comet was a one-man “human-powered” spacecraft that was about to attempt to win the last unclaimed Kremer Prize, a £100,000 award for the first person to “fly” unaided, in less than twelve hours, between any two of the 247 space colonies in geostationary orbit.

Generally, all of the attempts to make the human-powered crossing involved Newton’s third law. Contestants would typically launch massive projectiles using a human compressed spring in one direction, and the ship would move in the opposite direction at a velocity proportional to the mass of the projectiles and the ship. Alternatively, contestants would use a hand pump to pressurize a liquid, and release it like a rocket exhaust. The big problem, however, was achieving the correct trajectory. In orbit, there were complicating factors. If the ship moves retrograde (opposite to the direction of Earth’s rotation) its orbital velocity decreases. This means that it is no longer in geostationary orbit, and it starts to “fall” perceptibly toward the Earth. Consequently, after traveling several hundred kilometers, it misses the target low. Some intrepid designers added multidirectional “guidance” capability to their ships. But all those craft ended up rotating helplessly out of control (the rules prohibited gyroscopes on the ship). In over twenty years of trying, nobody had been able to “thread the needle” (i.e., achieve the correct angle and velocity to dock successfully with an adjacent space colony).

But today, Allen Bryan, a 25-year-old graduate student in Physics, had a plan to improve his odds. He had spent months preparing for this attempt. Seconds after he was notified that the twelve-hour time limit had begun, he exited a hatch and clipped a tether line to his spacesuit. He then began turning a winch that caused a circular hull plate to move inside his ship. He climbed into the newly created cavity, and satisfied that he was aimed correctly, released the preloaded spring. As shocked onlookers watched, Bryan launched his body at an angle slightly outboard of the Gris-Nez Station, which was 358 kilometers “behind” the Folkestone. Of course, his more massive ship moved slowly in the opposite direction. Bryan had meticulously controlled the mass of the ship, the tether line, and his own mass. As he flew on a trajectory outboard of the Gris-Nez, he began to drop toward the Earth because of his retrograde motion. His plan was to overshoot the Gris-Nez, but cross its orbit five to ten kilometers on the far side. After eight hours of flight, the 500-kilometer long Kevlar tether line had played out. Bryan was safely beyond, and below, the Gris-Nez, with his tether line “draped” across the outer wheel of the space station. Bryan began to feverishly crank the winch on his spacesuit to reel himself in. He continued to shorten the tether line until he lightly crashed into the Gris-Nez colony two hours later. Exhausted, he scrambled into an open cargo bay.

“Very clever, Mister Bryan,” said a member of the Royal Aerospace Society’s Human-Powered Spacecraft Rules Committee, “that technique significantly increased your margin of error. Very clever, indeed. However, the rules clearly stipulate that ‘the pilot and the ship’ must arrive at the space station to claim the £100,000 prize. I suggest, sir, that you get busy manually hauling in your ship. You only have two hours left on the clock.”

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The Little Nothing

Author : Adam Wiesen

White. Sterile. No roof, no walls, no floors. No shadows. Make a sound. Hear anything? Of course not: no acoustics. You look nervous, Ben. Don’t. We’re not there yet. This is just a test. Plugged into your parietal lobe, running a line into your implant. The real deal takes way more power than I have in this little box. No, for a full-on semiotic transplant, you’re going to sit in the Big Chair down in Valley Stream, and they’re going to plug you right into the Nassau County grid, along with the rest of the recalcitrant douchebags who can’t seem to stop shitting in society’s mouth.

You’re sweating, Ben.

That’s okay.

I’d be scared, too. I mean, this little corner of eternity’s hardly scenic, and you’re slotted for a good thirty years. Where do you sleep? Oh, Ben, you really don’t get it, yet, do you? The whole point to this is you don’t sleep. Don’t eat, don’t talk, don’t hear, don’t listen. It’s just you and the the long white nothing. The Little Bardo, they call it. No sleep. What’s sleep when we’re technically plugged into your REM mode, anyway? No, you’re doing your full thirty wide awake. The Nassau County grid dumps into the National Readjustment Processor down in Quantico, where your personality will sit in happy reconstructed nothing for the entire stretch of your bid.

It could be worse, Ben. In the old days, they filled the Little Bardo with all sorts of terrible stuff. The best bits from the Bible, used to scare you to sleep at night. Fire and brimstone. Punishment, y’know? Retribution. No one really came out of that in one piece, though. Lot of catatonic freaks. Couldn’t control their piss function. Terrible smell. Lots of screaming. Then they tried to pamper them with a Heaven meme. That worked like bunk. I mean, for half you rotten sons-of-bitches, Heaven is raping kittens and stabbing nuns. Ever see a smiling coma victim? I hear half the Federal budget that year went to buying clean sheets, just to cover up the number of wet dreams you freaks had. So, then they came to this. Nothing. Nada. Nirvana, baby, for thirty years. The Little Bardo. Time to think, right?

Ben, we have a toilet for going to bathroom. Someone’s going to have to mop up after you. That’s not very considerate is it?

How are you going to receive visitors? Your mother? Ben, look at me. Does this place look like it’s got the facilities to hold your toxic miserable ass for thirty actual years? We’re going in through the parietal lobe, champ. That controls time sense. You’re going to be in and out of here in twenty minutes.

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Troublesome Customer

Author : Jeremy M. Hall

“Welcome to Chrono-Real Estate-Advertising. How may I help you?”

“I’m here to buy from March 1, 1650 to March 30, 1650 for the entire city of Jamestown, Virgina.”

“Sir, we can’t do that.”

“I have a suitcase with several million dollars that says you can.”

“No, sir. We cannot do that. We do have a nice spot in upstate New York on August 30, 1921 that we have on sale. Upstate New York is a hot commodity in the Pre-Branding market.”

“No, ma’am. I want that time period for Jamestown.”

The gentleman opened the suitcase that he was carrying, showing off large stacks of hundred dollar bills.

“Listen sir, I’m sure you’re big in the Pre-Branding business, especially to carry that much cash in a briefcase, but there is no way we are going to let you buy any time period before the Nineteenth century, especially in an area that big. The Historical Protection Commission would be down our throats before we could even place your advertising, and they would be yanking our Time Equipment through our tonsils. In fact, there isn’t a reputable Time and Space Advertiser that would take your offer.”

“I can’t believe this crap. I have several million dollars cash, and you aren’t going to take it? And for what? Because of some government regulations. You people are-”

The receptionist’s phone rang and she picked it up.

“Yes, sir,” she said into the handset. “This is a TC level three. You have a B three million ready? OK, the code is alpha gamma omega beta. Yes, sir. I’ll be sure to let him know.”

“What’s this?” the customer asked. “I heard three million there. Are they considering it?”

“Say hello to the dinosaurs,” the receptionist said, and then hit several keys on a small terminal. The customer had a shocked look on his face as a small pinhole appeared behind him, then sucked him in backwards. The last thing the receptionist saw of the man was his bulging eyes and the tips of his shoes. She looked at her watch, and then counted to five, at which point the customer returned the same way he’d left, except for the stain in the seat of his pants.

“I hope you enjoyed the T-rex greeting. If you continue to bother me, or any other employee of Chrono-Real Estate-Advertising, we will file for a Harassment Clause which would allow us to send you back to Mister T-Rex and let him finish the job. Do you understand?”

The customer only nodded, his face still frozen in fear, and with his briefcase clutched, white knuckled in one hand, he slowly backed out through the door.

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