Survivor of Olympus Mons

Author : Neil Griffith

Allan sighed and took a deep breath.

“I’m from the Olympus Mons colony, I was a kid when it happened.”

‘It’ didn’t require any explanation, all the worlds knew of Olympus Mons. With over 3000 people tragically killed, it was the greatest disaster ever to happen to humanity off of the surface of the Earth. The event was the Titanic of its era, it even had a classic twist of the folly of man, building a colony in the base of a giant mountain, said to be indestructible by an infamous quote from the colony’s founder. “Whatever disaster may beset the face of Mars, people may seek shelter at Olympus. No home is safer than the home of the Gods.” The largest habitat ever built at the time, no one attempted to equal its scale for a decade.

Because of the thousands of hours of surviving electronic footage, Olympus Mons was also one of the greatest documented disasters of all time. Despite that fact there remained one mystery, as much as was known about the events immediately following the disaster, very little was known of the actual cause. Many conflicting tales of what caused the east side of the mountain to collapse onto the superstructure of the colony cropped up over the years. The Mars government said there was an earthquake from rare tectonic stress causing a landslide. The survivors, however, always gave a very different tale.

“Did you want to talk about it?” asked the attractive woman Allan had just met.

Allan smiled and swirled his drink a little. He was used to this.

“It was an accident,” said Allan.

“How do you know?” asked the woman.

“My family remained inside the colony for almost an hour after it happened,” said Allan, “We were in a part of the structure furthest away from the collapse. My father took his EVAC suit and climbed into the wreckage in the upper part of the superstructure to rescue people. But if someone wasn’t wearing an EVAC suit when all the outer walls get ripped open, there wouldn’t be anyone alive to find.”

“Did your father find what caused it to happen?” asked the woman.

Allan shook his head yes and said, “Him and about a dozen others looking for survivors stood right in front of it. There was a drill rig still standing there, right at the highest point they reached in the mountainside above where the land broke away. He said you could easily see where a giant sheet of rock must have split from where they were drilling and it caused a landslide right into the superstructure. The guy operating the rig must have been standing on the rock when it broke away and rode it all the way down.”

The intriguing charm slightly faded from the woman’s eyes and she had the typical look of shock and bewilderment Allan had known too well, then she asked why she never read about the real cause.

“Nobody in space wants to read about accidents,” explained Allan, “Specifically ones caused by man. When you live in an environment where you count so desperately on people to keep you alive it always has to be a million in one fluke, God’s will, or something else’s fault, but not man. People cannot face the reality their lives are constantly at the mercy of somebody else’s incompetence. It’s too much of a horror to deal with. So blame it on the mountain, tectonic stress or some such nonsense. It has nothing to do with the arrogance of man pushing too far and reaching too high.”

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Domestically Disabled

Author : Steven Saus

Inside, she was free.

Her consciousness flitted from desktop to watch to media player. Her sight was composited from surveillance videos, streaming webcams, and a million stuttering stills uploaded from cameraphones. She flexed her arms, and cranes swung thousand-pound loads, drawbridges opened, and floodwalls moved on electric motors. With a wriggle of her fingers, rising gates freed a herd of cattle, electricity sparked through transformers, and the monotone motions of a hundred assembly-bots gained a little unpredictability. Her legs were wheels and stilts and foundations. She was not afraid of the wheels Inside; they could not hurt her here. She twirled and laughed and danced across fibers, wires, and empty air.

Reality sparked twice and dissolved into the static white noise of pain.

“Sorry, Sissy,” her Nana said. The disconnected wire lay limp in her hand. She could almost see Inside, just on the other side of a fiber optic tube. She looked up. Her reflection was twisted and broken in her Nana’s glasses, though the glasses themselves were fine. The sour smell of her own urine wafted into slowly reactivating nostrils. “It’s time for your bath.”

Outside, she was trapped in the ruined stumps of limbs, the burned skin screaming with pain, her charred vocal cords useless. Her Nana began to gently wash her, the soft cotton cloth scraping sandpaper against the healing wounds. If tears popped the soap bubbles on her cheek, no one could tell.

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To Whom It May Concern

Author : Jason Frank

Dear Fontilibus Corporation rescue crew, space explorers, other would be rescuers, or whom it may concern,

How are you?

Good, I hope. Whether or not you’ve found my remains,it should be clear to you that I’ve been better. If I were alive, we would be talking right now and you wouldn’t be reading this. I hope you do read this. It’s just a small little card. It shouldn’t take more than five minutes to read.

Whether or not you are from the Fontilibus Corporation, I want to take this time to detail some of my experiences with their fine product, the Xcape5000. For the most part, this product has met and exceeded my expectations. I’ll elaborate a bit before moving on to the one or two little complaints I have.

Much to my surprise, I escaped the destruction of the fleet frigate I was serving on. The same can’t be said for the rest of the crew as whatever destroyed the ship did so rather unexpectedly. I myself was napping in this pod at the time. I woke up surrounded by some very familiar looking debris. Clearly this was my ship. I’m sure it was Johnson’s arm that floated past my little window. How many hours I had spent watching that arm, the way it coyly bent while holding a drink, the quick spring of it unbending to throw that drink in someone’s face. I can’t tell you how long I’ve had to think about that arm down here.

The Xcape5000 not only got me out of that pickle, it also found me the human life supporting planetoid you are currently standing on. Two for two! I was so happy to be alive that I celebrated. I ate and ate and drank and drank and sang and sang all the songs I could remember.

This would be a good time to segue into some of the less satisfactory features of the Xcape5000.

First of all, the food supplies included in the pod weren’t completely adequate. They really should factor in the celebration factor when determining how much food they pack.

Secondly, the quick responding Fontilibus Rescue Crew, they all looked so attractive in the brochure, turned out to be not so quick to respond. The brochure guaranteed a speedy pickup and I was a bit disappointed with this.

On the bright side, those slugs you’ve noticed squirming all around turned out to be completely edible and the pregnant ones secrete some fluid that packs quite a buzz.They’re fun to toss, too. You might have passed a black rock on your way here. That’s what I use to mark my longest throw (both feet behind the pod’s tail fins). So, as you can see, I’ve had plenty to do. When my arm would get sore from tossing slugs, I would read and reread the technical manual for the Xcape5000. That’s when I found about one more brilliant feature of this fine escape pod.

It turns out that this, and all Fontilibus escape models, has a self destruct sequence. I sure was tempted to engage it when I found that out. Instead, I decided to think about it while tossing some slugs. I came up with a happy little thought that kept me warm at night and kept me going until whatever it was that I finally succumbed to. See, it was an easy matter to rig the destruct sequence to the motion sensors outside the pod. The only problem was, how do you get someone to stand close by for the five minutes it takes to arm?

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Dinner Date

Author : Steven Saus

“Make your own damn dinner.”

He coughed, sputtering foam from his after-work beer onto the cluttered endtable. She showed no signs of malfunction. There were no sparks, no telltale wisps of smoke from the delicate wires in her wrists. Her voice utterly failed to stutter; it just had this odd quality he couldn’t quite place.

“I said, make your own damn dinner. I’m leaving you.” She clanked towards the door, ripping the apron (a silly affectation he’d had her wear) off her metal torso.

“But — I made you!” His beer tottered and fell from the endtable, jostled by his awkward attempt at pursuit. The amber liquid splattered across the half-soldered circuit boards and the screws – never put away – that had been “left over” after assembling the kit.

“I found someone else.” She reached down and picked up the old-fashioned modem he hadn’t paid any attention to. “I found someone who truly understands me for what and who I am. Now leave me alone and make your own damn dinner.”

“You got past the house firewall? You’ve been Internet dating?” She did not bother to respond.

He thought about the first time he’d seen her lips, laying in the bubblewrap and cardboard. Now they were pursed unnaturally tight. He imagined the whirring and moving behind her chest, the way the parts he’d fitted together all moved in sync. He remembered the hours he’d spent assembling the synthetic sinews of her hands. That meant something, didn’t it? He’d put her together. He had joined every one of her joints that worked to pull his front door open.

His android stepped forward and fell into the waiting arms of another robot. This new robot was as male as his was female. The force of their embrace would have pulped his ribs, but both robot’s mouths were open in a wide smile.

Behind the robots, his front gate crashed open. The panting woman who stood there stopped, staring. A spanner dropped from her hand and clattered on the sidewalk. After a few minutes – when the androids began to kiss – she slowly looked up and in the doorway. When the two humans made eye contact, they both grinned sheepishly.

The two couples made a lovely curry and rice dish together.

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The Governor

Author : Chris Peterson

I look down at the seat as I climb into the car.

“Well, get in honey,” says a lady entering from the other side. An attractive lady. She’s talking to another attractive lady in a familiar pink outfit, and the familiar pink pillbox hat that the whole world and I have seen for over forty years in some of the most unforgettable images ever.

Someone makes a quick quip behind me that I don’t catch. I turn and see that smile. Those teeth. That hair. Holy shit, my brain screams, that’s John Kennedy. He’s already seated. He’s smiling. He expects me to make a comeback to his friendly jibe.

I look down again at the jump seat, in front of the President.

“It’s called a jump seat so you can jump out of the car if you see a pretty girl along the way,” the President jokes again.

“Now, Jack,” the attractive lady climbing in to the seat next to me admonishes.

I look back at the President. He’s still waiting for me to come back at him with a real zinger. I am Governor Connally. I don’t know how I am, but I am. I remember nothing before putting my foot into the car. The car! Yes, that car.

Police on motorcycles are putting on helmets and people are filling the cars behind us.

Stop the motorcade! My brain screams. But no sound comes. Stop stop STOP!!! For the love of God, don’t go!

My brain flashes ahead to the waiting crowds. The waiting history. It’s not too late! My brain screams again. Again, I am mute.

I don’t want to be here for this! I don’t want this to happen! Stop! Stop now!

I remain frozen. It all seems so inevitable. So unchangeable. Crowds of people waiting to see the President. The planned route. The crowds. Dealey Plaza. Adrian Zapruder and his secretary on their lunch break. Mannlicher-Carcano. Babushka lady. Adrian Zapruder? No, Abraham. What a strange thing to correct myself on. Stop the motorcade! Everyone, out of the car! For the love of God, stop!

I am on a park bench. I am no longer Governor Connally. I don’t know how I am not, but I am not. It is raining. A steady, gentle autumn rain. Surprisingly, it’s not cold. The rain hides my tears. Has it happened? Have I prevented tragedy? I listen for the sound of distant gunfire, of screams, racing engines and screeching tires, howling sirens. Of course I can’t hear them. It is raining, and November 22 in Dallas was sunny. I may be 1000 miles away. I glance up briefly as a man and woman, middle-aged, walk past me in the park. Huddled together, in their rain slickers, they don’t look shocked. They don’t look alarmed. Maybe they don’t know yet. Maybe it didn’t happen.

In my heart, I know it is happening right at this moment, far away, as the rain soaks my clothes. I was nearly there for a few seconds, and the thought chills my bones. Nobody will ever utter the words “former President Kennedy;” only “the late President Kennedy.” Jackie will forever be Jackie O. The country and the world will not be shocked like this for almost another forty years, on another sunny day in a distant September.

That too, seems so large. So evil. So hopeless. The weight of Evil presses down on me. So much of it. I am so small.

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