Corewoman

Author : Sad Sama

“What’s it like?”

The pale-haired wispy woman that is Alicia stares up at Brian as he asks his question. From the observation deck behind the engine complex the two of them could view the planet below. It is a humbling sight, but Brian’s attention is on Alicia. “What’s it like being a Corewoman?”

Alicia Composes her thoughts in reminiscent contemplation. “The first part is easy. I step inside the chamber. The walls are black from the many times they’ve been used, and they form a sphere around me. There is no light inside once the door closes. I begin to visualize the equations in my head, and then I start to solve them, forming very specific patterns of electrical impulses in my brain. They’re patterns within the patterns of electricity that comprise my mind and consciousness, but they’re unstable in a very specific way.”

Alicia turns her gaze back to the planet as she continues, “At first there’s a burning sensation spreading throughout my body, but that’s just my nerves dying as the energy buildup breaks down my brain. Numbness follows, just as my eyes tear up before their nerves die. I can hear static for a moment followed by nothing. My brain is gone and my body follows suit, burning up as fuel in the growing mass of energy and flux. Then the engines start to siphon off the excess energy to fuel the cruiser’s propulsion system.”

Brian looks over Alicia’s willowy figure. “How do they bring you back?”

Alicia speaks softly, “At the center of all that energy exists very specific patterns of energy. They’re the same as the electrical patterns that make up my consciousness. So they funnel the core of energy into an assembly chamber that converts it back into matter… back into a real body with that pattern of energy as the electrical impulses in my brain.”

“So to run the ship you have to die?”

“Constantly.”

“Is it nice being so powerful?”

“Not really.” Alicia lifts her knees and rests her chin on them. “There aren’t many that can solve the equations that cause the energy flare. The Fleet’s scared that if any of us get into an accident or even just bump our heads that we’ll forget the equations and suddenly we can’t do our duty anymore. The Fleet rarely lets me off the Cruiser, and when they do I need several escorts. I’m not allowed to drive or fly a shuttle. I’m not permitted to even cut my own food. Everyone does everything for me, and after a while they start to treat me as if I can’t do these simple things, and they end up making me feel useless.”

Unsure of his words, “But Corewomen and Coremen are the most important parts of our Fleet.”

“Heh…” the chuckle is half a whimper. “Why does being so important make me feel like the most unimportant person ever?”

The next hour is quiet between them as Brian searches for an answer.

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Alternate 6633KE

Author : Joshua Reynolds

The dead moved on surprisingly swift legs, despite muscles that had to be mostly composed of rot. So he ran faster.

It had been a meteor, carrying a star-sickness. That was what had caused it. It wouldn’t have mattered if he hadn’t been here when it happened. For those first few days when the virus was in the air and eating away at living cells and he was trapped here with them. Quarantined by faceless bureaucrats for the good of everything else.

And now he was running, his breath hissing in and out of three lungs, skin burning with fever. He had to get home. Get away from this sour world, get help. All he needed was some help.

All he would get was the Censor.

Wight watched from the trash-strewn alleyway as the empty-eyed legions hunted the last living man on this Earth, his coat in shreds, clothing bloodied, face filled with the same ruthless determination to succeed and survive that he himself saw in the mirror every morning. Which wasn’t surprising really. They were both Censors after all. Both Wight.

Brothers in blood and bone and genetic coding. Created in steel wombs and raised in nutrient tubes by nanny-bots programmed to teach them all the values of Prime-Time and the Timeline Validation Bureau, to ready them for the war in the gaps between seconds. Mister Wight. Censor Wight. One and all.

They even thought alike. Which is why he was here now. To stop himself.

He stepped out of the alley as his other self ran past and stood in the path of the hungry dead. As the dead groaned and converged on him, arms outstretched, jaws slack he pulled on a pair of TeslaSurge gloves and stretched out his own arms. Blue energy suddenly cracked to life between his fingers, rippling up and down between his palms. With a flick of his wrists he released the energy, whipping it into the advancing forms. It coiled and snapped almost like a thing alive as it jumped from one body to the next, destroying what little remained of their physiological cohesion and reducing them to puddles of meat and stink. Soon all of the hunting pack were dissolving in their own juices. But there was a sound on the wind. A mindless rumble. More of them on the way.

“They have excellent hearing. They’ll follow the sound of the energy discharge.” his twin coughed into a bandaged hand, features haggard. Weeks of running, hiding, fighting. All of it had worn him down, worn away his sense of duty. He intended to go home, quarantine or no. Wight could see it in his eyes. “I need to leave. Now.”

“I will.” Wight raised his crackling gloves. The other Censor’s tired eyes widened slightly. In the light put off by the gloves he looked ill. Like death warmed over.

No wonder really. He was infected after all. All it took was one bite. Just one. And that meant he couldn’t be allowed back into the time-stream.

“I’m sorry.” Wight said as the energy rippled outward, away from his hands towards his twin, whose shoulders slumped, as if a massive burden had been taken off them.

“I know.” he said as the energy enveloped him. Breaking him down back into his basic elements. Until the Censor stood alone on an empty street with only the dead for company.

Then he too was gone, leaving another sour world in his wake.

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Yar

Author : TJMoore

Simon checked his course and speed against his charts. He was still only marginally ahead of the others but he hoped to be well ahead at the far buoy. He checked his lines and glanced at his sail which was full and tight. He relaxed and went below to fix some chow.

Ten hours later Simon rechecked his position and that of the other yachts in the race. Something was wrong. His size to mass ratio should have given him the edge on the first leg, yet the others were catching up. He checked his tension again and confirmed his sail angle. Everything was perfect yet they continued to advance on his lead.

Another ten hours later and he was again pulling away but as soon as he got any distance on the rest of the ships he started to slow down. Curiouser and curiouser said Alice. For giggles he took an average Lumen Per Square Meter reading. It was gradually declining. Simon scratched his head and thought. He took another reading and saw it was lower than before. That was insane. The LPSM didn’t fall off that quickly at this rate of acceleration.

Suddenly he had an idea. He opened the meteoroid shield and actually looked back at the other ships and immediately understood the problem. The combined total of all the solar sails was blotting out the sun. As he pulled further away, more shadows fell on his own sail and reduced his thrust. Simon hauled in the starboard lines causing the hundred and fifth square kilometers of mylar sail to change its angle to the sun to about thirty degrees. His acceleration dropped even lower but he gradually started to slide off to the side of the pack. As soon as he was clear of the shadows of the other racers he let out his lines. His radar confirmed that he was now constantly increasing his lead.

Simon smiled and went down to catch some sleep. In another week he’s have to perform the tricky maneuver that would slingshot him around Mars, the first buoy, and begin the second leg of the race.

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Apology

Author : Rusty

People of the earth, I am sorry.

Mostly, I am sorry for the weapon pointed at me head, which you cannot see on your screen. But I think I am not as sorry as the person holding that weapon, who is hopefully debating wildly whether or not he should shoot me as his superiors are no doubt screaming at him to.

I’m also sorry that you don’t understand what I’ve done. I expected it, but it still saddens me a little. I suppose I never really gave up hope that you would call me a hero. That said, I am a realistic man, heh, and I am not surprised that I was imprisoned and forced to issue an official apology. Not that it will do any good.

Now that I’ve finished apologizing, let me tell you what I am not sorry for. I am not sorry that, in less than four years time, this planet will be a barren and lifeless husk, littered with the bodies of those who were not strong enough. I am not sorry for the untold billions who will die. I am not sorry for the coming terror, panic, and death that will ensue. In short, I am not sorry that I have set into motion the extermination of all life on Earth and the destruction of this planet.

The Von Neumann fleet that I built on Ganymede cannot be stopped. It will complete constructing itself in three years, and then launch itself towards this planet with the intent of wiping out every human life in the galaxy. You can flee, and it will hunt you. You can hide, but it will find you. From now on, the life of every human will be a constant, terrifying struggle to escape the monster that I have built and unleashed. Because of this, the evolutionary process will continue; the human race will ascend from the pit of apathy and greed and overpopulation and disease, and become strong again. Those who survive will be forged in the volcanic heat of conflict, reared and made great by constant strife. In a thousand generations, perhaps, the ancestors of those few who make it will look back, and thank me.

For this, I am not sorry.

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Blown Cover

Author : Duncan Shields

It’s Sao Paolo all over again. I’ve got three bullets left in the low-tech and half a charge left in the high. I have six pencil holes straight through me that are cauterized from the setting on the sniper’s gun. They want this to be extreme cat and mouse. They want to me to suffer and experience fear.

So far they’re doing a great job.

The thing about being shot with a plaser? You don’t feel a thing. You’ll be brushing your teeth that night and notice in the mirror that there’s light shining through a collection of holes that have turned your kidney area into a sponge.

Of course that doesn’t work if they hit your heart or head or anything vital like that. They have to aim carefully. Perhaps sever a tendon. Freak out the pancreas a little by punching a hole through it.

My left arm is useless and my suit is a ragged mess of torn tuxedo and smeared mud. I’m missing a shoe. I look like a time traveler in this poverty stricken suburb.

I was kidnapped from the party and set loose here. It’s been non-stop fun ever since they kicked me out of the van fifteen minutes ago.

I’ve had my cover blown before but this is the first time I’ve thought that I might not make it.

If I can get to a public webstation, I can alert my handlers and glaze the area, maybe get airlifted or even downloaded. In the parts of town with money, webstations are as common as McStarKings. Here’s they’re as rare as clock radios.

I prime myself for the dash across the alley necessary to put me into the flood of foot traffic on the main ramblas I can see through the crack in the buildings. I have no concern about body counts anymore. You can smooth out ruffled feathers if the collateral damage is poor.

I hold my breath and push forward like a frog across the orange dust of the alley.

I hate Mars.

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