The Icemen Cometh

Author: Roi R. Czechvala

They think we are unaware during the Freeze. They say our brain activity is too low for rational thought. At best they say we might experience vague fleeting dreamlike states. They think we sleep. They’re wrong.

It’s been two years since our last Thaw. It has been two years in which to think. Two years to plan. Two years to become seriously pissed off.

As the Thaw begins, our orders and classes in the weapons and equipment we will be using are given to us intravenously. Small electric currents are fed through our bodies to stimulate and exercise long dormant muscles. A high protein/carbo/steroidal soup is pumped into us to get us battle ready. I’d prefer a beer.

Their failing was in thinking that we are asleep in cryo. They have no idea that the brain feed works both ways. While they are monitoring us, we are monitoring them

They never expected us to learn. They never expected us to communicate with each other in cryo, or communicate to the other ships, to the other Icemen, let alone a distant planets surface. They didn’t plan, nor expect us to have any knowledge, or even goals beyond our military download. How wrong they are. How arrogant.

Finally the Thaw is complete. Twenty nine of us emerge from our lockers. The non-cryos refer to them as “Cryo Stasis Emersion Tanks”, but they are identical to our lockers in garrison, sans the vent holes.

There are twenty nine Cryos in this drop ship, plus our lieutenant, a non-cryo, and a handful of other NCs to run the ship. We are drop troops; the Icemen. Little more than bombs sheathed in flesh; set to explode in a fury of berserker combat. An expendable weapon as far as they’re concerned. If we survive the fray, and we usually do, all the better, it means promotion, for the CO, we’re just ammo. If we are terminated, oh well, they can always grow more.

We draw our combat loads, and fall into formation to await any updates to our previously downloaded orders. Our Lt. takes command from our platoon sergeant. Funny how our commanders are all non-cryos, and therefore non-combatants. It’s like they don’t trust us. Ha, I make me laugh.

“Gentlemen”, our Lt. speaks in something less than a manly voice. “as you are already aware there has been an uprising in the Martian Confederation and we’ve been called upon to quell the disturbance. The rebels are cybos.” Cybos; he spits out the word just like somebody calling a black man “nigger” two hundred years ago.

“The reason,” the little NC prick continued, “for the soldiers treachery is uncertain at this time, but you have been ordered to eliminate the problem with extreme prejudice. You have all been issued atomics to achieve this end. You drop in twenty minutes. That is all. Any questions?” Icemen have no need to speak. We have orders. Besides, we already know the reason.

“Very well. Platoon disMISSED.” The Lt. executes a crisp about face, steps off neatly with his left foot, and crumples to the floor with a .50 caliber hole pierced neatly through his skull. I use incendiary rounds; cauterizes wounds instantly. I hate blood.

Yes, we will drop in twenty minutes, we will meet the “cybos” on the field of battle, and we will embrace the Cybernetic Soldiers as brothers in arms as we face the real enemy. The “trueborn” humans who hate us, despise us, and inherently fear us.

Mars will be ours, and what more fitting place for a race of warriors.

The Icemen Cometh…

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And The Winner Is…

Author : J. S. Kachelries

The host of the very popular holovision show slithered to the center of the stage. The thunderous ovation of 1500 tails pounding on the floor died away as the host’s three antennae motioned them to quiet down. The holocameras panned slowly from the audience to the host. “Thank you…thank you…welcome to Alien Encounters. Tonight is our final show focusing on the sentient life form on Sol-3, in the Sirius Sector. As our regular viewers will attest, these earthlings are a very entertaining species. They have to be the easiest species in the galaxy to mess with.

“For those of you unfamiliar with the show, we sent three teams of college students to Earth with instructions to convince as many earthlings as possible that ‘extraterrestrials’ exist using as little evidence as possible. The team producing the highest gullibility quotient will win an all-expense vacation for five at the Holiday Spa on Orion-3.

“Our first team, from Dorfox University, matted down a circular pattern in a vegetation field on one of the planet’s island countries. Despite the fact that no spaceship would leave such a simplistic impression, the earthlings became obsessed with wild speculations about alien visitors. The Dorfox team followed up with some really bizarre geometric patterns that had no practical significance whatever. Despite the 80/20 rule, very few earthlings accepted the simplest solution. They think we’re sending them complicated, encrypted messages. Hellllloooo. It’s not a complicated message guys, it’s ‘Get a life!’

“Our second team, from Darrvah University, shredded a weather balloon and scattered its remains across an arid silica wasteland. Not only did their news media go overboard, but they are still obsessed with the ‘alien crash site’ decades later. The really funny part is they think their government is involved in a conspiracy to cover up the incident. The more the government denies a cover-up, the more convinced the fools are that there are flying saucers and alien bodies hidden in a secure warehouse. It makes you wonder if these beings ever heard of Occam’s Razor. To this day, local souvenir shops still sell millions of little green humanoid dolls that are supposed to be us. Do you believe their arrogance? They think all intelligent races must be bilateral beings that look like them. Unbelievable!

“Finally, our third team, from Gihhel University, mind melded with an aspiring actor and had him broadcast an audio only “breaking news story” about aliens invading their planet. It was hilarious. Thousands of people were convinced we were going to turn them into slaves and sex toys. They grabbed projectile weapons to fight us off. Do you believe that? They thought they could chase away a superior, technologically advanced race with pop guns. And slaves? Why would we want intellectually challenged earthmen as slaves? That’s what robots are for. And sex toys? Hey, I’ve seen their women. I’d rather mate with a Cassiopeian swamp lizard.

Anyway, these are the three finalists. Will it be…Crop Circles, Roswell, or War of the Worlds? Which set of contestants made the most number of earthlings look like the south end of a north bound usagiuma?” The host reached into his pouch and pulled out a datapadd. He paused for dramatic effect. The audience began chanting for their favorite. He flipped open the padd and read “And the winner is…”

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Author : Brian Armitage

“He’s up. Turn it on,” someone says. The doctor.

As I open my eyes, the whiteness hits. It’s like I’m having an idea, but it’s too much for my brain to hold. I squeeze my eyes shut and gasp, trying to…

…where am I? The doctor is looking at me, smiling. Confidently. Behind him, the other doctor, holding an implant control. “What’s going on?”

“Always the first thing they forget,” Dr. Meyers says, the one in the back. Like I’m not even in the room. How do I know his name?

Dr. Canton pats me on the knee. I can barely feel it. I’m strapped to the bed at the knees. “Watch the wallscreen, Mr. Daughtry. This video should explain everything. Screen one, play.” The white idea is alight again, and it’s burning… and I can’t remember where my house is. The video starts, and a face pops onto the screen. I jump, and the bed slides against the wall.

It’s me.

“Hey, Mike. It’s me. You. Well, yeah,” the recording says. Chuckles. “But man, soon we’re not gonna be anyone anymore. We’re getting the Parson Treatment.” The recording grins. “It’s all getting erased.”

Another pulse. What’s my last name? What’s my dad’s name? And the recording just grins at me. It starts talking again, and I just gawk. I grip my hair, eyes vibrating. “No, no, no… you dumb bastard. What did you do?”

The doctor in the back of the room laughs aloud. The doctor by the bed shushes him, but he’s trying not to laugh himself.

“…done, you’re not gonna remember anything! Nothing! Not Kiera leaving, not…”

“Kiera left me?” When? I start crying. The white idea roars. Why am I crying?

“…won’t hurt. They say they need you to be awake for the procedure, because of the brain chemistry. It’ll be weird, but… we’ll finally be done.”

What procedure? I can’t remember any… no. Not a Parson Implant. No.

“People say it’s suicide, but it’s not. They’re wrong.” The man in the video clenches his jaw, looks like he’s going to point a finger at the camera, but he doesn’t. Who is he? “We’re finally going to be useful for someone. They’ll use our body, but we won’t have to deal with it anymore.” He tries to smile. “Finally done.”

“85 percent,” says the doctor with the device in his hand.

“Good enough. Go ahead,” says the other.

The doctor’s finger taps the device. What is it-

A white idea rushes at me. It burns, but… it burns, but… A white idea. A white. I try speak. I try stop. Wall man say okay. Is okay? No! Not wanting!

Not wanting.


* * *

“And, done,” said Dr. Meyers. Flatline on all three scales. Nice and clean.

Dr. Canton patted what was Mike Daughtry on the knee again. The patient started, then squinted at his own knee. “Screen one, pause recording.” He waited for the confirmation chime, then burst into laughter. “Oh, man! We’re watching that one again tonight. Did you see that? He forgot his wife left him! Perfect timing.”

“Perfect timing,” Meyers repeated, shaking his head. “Classic. We should probably think of a better excuse to wake them up first, though. Someone’s not gonna buy it. But thank you, Mr. Daughtry, for totally buying it.”

The patient had turned toward Meyers. His jaw moved slightly, once.

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The Virgin Nature

Author : Tim Hatton

The hull was a likely prospect. Nothing much else caught his eye. The inside seemed neglected – full of potential indeed, but sorely neglected. There were also certain crucial updates missing from the internal computer system. The map array was as recent as his salesman’s overcoat. Jack noted with slight surprise that even his home world was uncharted.

“And you said this craft was used for freight delivery – “

“Yes, yes,” the unsavory salesman injected, cutting Jack off in mid-sentence, “not a sturdier hull anywhere, sir. Max load exceeds 23 tons.”

Jack moved a short distance to the left in order to avoid the spittle shower that erupted every time the sleaze-bag spoke.

“It doesn’t seem to have made very many deliveries, though,” muttered Jack, “the map entries only cover the nearest seven systems…”

Despite his tone, Jack rather appreciated the virgin nature of this particular Trellis Shipyards Courier Class. He had always admired the smooth curves and easy movement of the Trellis ships. Imagining his first craft to be from that elite stock brought a slight tremble to his hand.

The trouble with Jack was his own virgin nature. He had never piloted his own ship into space and the uncertainty ripped his confidence apart. He had never seen a terrible accident or been in any firefight. No, there were no terrible memories. As of yet, there were no memories at all. He was simply too insecure. Nothing else brought so much wonder and so much terror to him like the thought of striking out on his first voyage. His life was not exactly fulfilling there on Phams, but at least it was safe and steady.

“I’m sorry Mr. Gantry, I just don’t think today’s the day…” Jack began to make for the exit. He cast a sorrowed glance back at the Courier and tried to block out the nagging protestations of Gantry, the salesman. He reached the gate and looked down briefly at the cluster of signs on its grate. A yellow and blue ad caught his attention. It flashed a message at him; “Meet you’re true love today! You only get one chance at life, don’t let this opportunity slip…” Jack stood dazed.

Sure life was safe, secure and easy on Phams, but to hell with Phams! The universe was out there. Just a few miles away, adventure, uncertainty, thrill and peril was resting, staring at him with a thousand bright eyes cast against a never-ending onyx sheet. What a waste he was!

He turned around and resolutely strode back to Gantry. Without a word, he transferred in the required funds and firmly, wonderfully, pressed his thumb on the scammer and felt the lasers probe his pupils. A green light confirmed his identity, and Gantry, now smiling genuinely, passed Jack the slot disk that belonged to the Courier.

“She’s all yours Jack,” said Gantry.

With a smile and a thrill of fear, he climbed the hatch into the heart of his mistress and resolved to express his undying love for the universe to which he belonged with every new journey he endeavored upon.

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Author : Amy Monroe

By way of introduction: Sweit was the one who kissed like a file cabinet and she was the one who kissed like a plate of raw liver. Rays of light came through the subway ruins, skating through the upper Bronx and into Westchester, and they caught Mardi blinking, stretching, falling asleep. The sun was always out; the sun wasn’t special, but the way it lit in her hair—it seemed like a reason to wait till Poughkeepsie to wake her.

“I think it’s beautiful to us because we know it’s never going to change,” Mardi said, hitching her skirt, talking about the sun.

Walking, they saw a man turning a “CLOSED” sign, the old sign, the “CLOSED after dusk” sign.

“Do you think anyone would even know dusk, now?”

“What, baby?” Her eyes were closed, face tipped up.

“That sign. Does anyone alive today remember dusk?”

“It was when the sun went down. Come on.”

“You know that I’m never really complaining about you.”

“Of course not. Hey, there—that guy there—d’you see? He’s leaking.”

“Were you still little when they changed the sun? Did you hear all the adults complaining and not understand?”

“By the time I could remember it was like this. But leaking! It was sliding down his ankles and dripping.” She rubbed the toe of her shoes in the dust, frustrated.

“I’ve seen it before. They’re still fixing all the kinks with liquid. Not all of us are perfect.”

“But you missed it. That’s the kind of thing I mean. You miss so much with sim eyes. They’re not made for—” She scratched deeper, dug a trough. “They’re not made for living, really.”

“Does it bother you?”

“No, baby, no.”

“Because Jimsum has some techs. I could be in on Saturday and noticing malfunctions with you on Sunday.”

“I don’t want you to change what you don’t want to change.”

She said this, but her eyes, the real eyes, her secret real eyes, they dripped all night.

Sweit went home and read about Anastasia, the other fakes, and he thought about his secret real girl, his girl who was not a file cabinet or made in any sense. He held his sim-fingers over his face, flickered them in front of his eyes and stared dimly at the blur they created.

Sweit called a number in the morning. Excited Korean on the other end—Jimsum’s girls waiting for the old country to call.

“Jimsum. I need to talk to Jimsum.”

More Korean, this time angry.

“Sorry, hon. Jimsum, please.”

Jimsum came on all laconic, “Techs.”

“Why haven’t you told your girls that Korea is underwater?”

“I can’t fucking speak Korean.”

Jimsum’s excuse for an excuse.

“I wanted to talk about some eye tech.”

“We got blue, green, zoom lens, yellow cat-eye.”

“You’re joking. I could get better from the hookers on Canal Street, man.”

“It’s what we’ve got.”

“Fuck it. I’m going to Canal. I’ll see you.”

Sweit fast-sim-thinking, he ran there. He knew Jimsum’d heard about Canal’s recent cleanouts and the hookers having fled to the subway tunnels; he knew before he saw Jimsum’s girl at the Korean grocery.

“Eyes? Jimsum say Saturday for eyes?”

She articulated, hating the English words in every syllable. “He say no-ow.”

“They’re on your communications?” Sweit asked instead of saying hello.

“Just the in-and-outs. I guess you want the meat eyes.”

Jimsum was laughing while he put him under.

Mardi almost screamed when he came rolling up to her in the alley, with those horrible wet-bloody eyes.

“What color are they?” she said, and started to cry.

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