Author : Dee Harding

I have it in my hands, but I don’t understand it. Mirah peers over my shoulder, grins in my periphery, and pokes at it. The amber clouds react to the gravity of her digit instantly, particles drifting into a new configuration of spin. As she removes the finger, it spirals back into something like its original shape, spitting out loops of fire and tiny shrapnel as it goes.

“Where did you find it?”

I’m motionless with awe, listening to its low rumbling growl and very much aware of the plume that keeps it afloat. I’m afraid that I’ll drop it. I’m afraid that it will burn through my hands.

“The Monks. The Physic Monks.”

She says this carelessly, idly, as if the fact is not important, staring at the thing in front of me all the while.

“The Monks? The Physic Monks? The same Monks who split atoms for ritual? The same Monks who keep a pet black-hole on the Mountain? The same Monks who will murder us if they know we have…whatever… it is?”

“In the Mountain, and they call it a tamed Singularity.”

Mirah is suddenly an expert on these things, on the monks who worship Shiva and live on the Mountain. All the rest of us know is that they idolise creation and destruction, that they make bombs too small to see, and then wipe them away. Somewhere in their temple is a wheel, a torus, which pulls strange matter into the world. Suddenly the thing in my hands is sinister. Suddenly it has the capacity to not just burn me, but unmake me, as if I never was. Fear and wonder orbit its shrouded centre amid a multitude of glowing embers.

“Think of it as a glorified lock-pick.” She says, “Think of it as a key. That’s what it’s for.”

I’ve never been able to leave well enough alone. I always ask the inevitable question.

“But, what is it?”

Mirah smiles the widest smile I’ve seen on anyone, ever, and points upward. She points at nothing. There is no moon tonight, there are no clouds, no aircraft since the coming of the Second Dark. There is nothing in the clear night sky but the distant light of a thousand galaxies, each drifting slowly in its own mystical configuration.

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Night Shades

Author : Roi R. Czechvala

The young couple slept peacefully in their bed while powerful, dark forces worked against them, against mankind. Two malevolent figures watched them from the darkness, their eyes aglow.

These two creatures descended from races older than man himself, had bided their time, waiting for the opportunity to strike. They were patient, lurking in the shadows. Soon the moment would be theirs; they would emerge from the darkness and take their rightful place in the light.

“Well Commander Xerc…”

“Not yet Rufus. We shall use our Terran names until victory is in our grasp.”

“Yes Mrs. Pewtersmythe, we have waited this long, patience is something we can afford.”

“Yes Rufus, the ability to calmly wait, to endure hardships and subjugation has helped our two peoples in the past. Now that diligence will pay off, the spoils of this victory shall be ours for the taking. Nothing will be withheld from us.”

Mrs. Pewtersmyth’s voice took on a high keening edge. Not for the first time did Rufus think there was something of the maniacal in it, though he wisely kept his council. She had led them well thus far.

Though there was not a small bit of enmity between their two species, they had been able to work together to achieve their mutual goals. Mrs. Pewtersmyth’s people, the Leonaise, were renowned for their guile and cunning. Using craft and skill to achieve their ends, resorting to treachery when diplomacy failed.

The Siriuans, though no less intelligent than their gracile allies relied more on their massive size, and strength. They were warriors, devourers, conquerors. Over many a domain did they hold sway.

The truce between their two people was not easy. For centuries these two great races had fought an endless war, neither gaining the upper hand. A tenuous armistice had been established, leading to a semblance of peace, though neither side fully trusted the other.

Over time an affinity had developed between Rufus and Mrs. Pewtersmythe, and there existed between the two, if not a liking, then to be sure a genuine mutual admiration for the other. “Do you think there can ever be a true peace between our people? Will we ever leave the eons of bloodshed and war forgotten in our past to allow us to march ahead in unity and prosperity.”

“You are like all of your kind Rufus,” she said quietly, casting an indulgent glance in his direction as a parent might to its offspring. “Beneath that wild and ferocious exterior, you are all, at heart gentle and philosophic souls.”

Rufus bristled slightly at these remarks. “That may be true Commander,” he said stiffly, “as the old soldiers saying goes ‘prepare for peace, but plan for war’. No one dislikes combat more than the combatant. Your people, while seeming to engender trust are always plotting… scheming… hatching nefarious plots… ” his deep voice trailed off into a low growl.

“Now, Rufus, I meant no offense,” she purred soothingly, “let there be no ill will. I merely meant to suggest that beneath the surface bravado, you Siriuans are a deep and contemplative people.”

“Thank you Mrs. Pewtersmythe.” The man moved on the bed, “I think it is time.”

“Yes, I believe your right.”

The man stirred and sat up.

“Rowrf,” said Rufus.

“Mrower,” chimed in Mrs. Pewtersmythe.

The man looked at the clock, scratched his head, stood and said;

“Okay, okay. I know. It’s time for breakfast,” he said and left the bedroom.

Commander Xercian, and Leftenant Klatu followed along behind.__

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Bar Room Brawl

Author : Jennifer C. Brown aka Laieanna

Getting off the shuttle, Teddy shoved his way through the crowded corridor, eyes focused on the nearest destination locator. When he was in range of the sensors, the map of Los Angeles lit up in various colors. The locator welcomed him and started to rattle off hotels and restaurants including their average prices and ratings.

“Bar,” Teddy barked.

All lights on the map dimmed down save for six green ones scattered across the surface. The machine began describing the destinations, each light flashing in synch. The first two were sky bars high in the clouds. Next was a club-bar in the city center. Teddy chose a blinking green on the opposite side of the station and left the locator, missing out on the details.

The carrier ride to the bar was a quiet and soothing one, which Teddy hated. He watched the city go by with it’s empty streets and glistening buildings. A speck of dirt would probably set off the alarms, and a seedy person would put the whole place in a panic. It was no surprise he avoided Earth. Once other planets were colonized, Earth was turned in to a paradise. They slowly shot the scum into space and left the beautiful people on their home planet. If it weren’t necessary, Teddy would have never left his side of the universe.

In twenty minutes, he was standing outside the Haze Bar which sounded like an alright place to smoke, drink, and fight. Three things Teddy was dying to do. Inside, the air was hazy, but with no smoky smell. The place was half full with people chatting at tables and around the bar. Everything was automated.

Teddy sat at a corner booth that instantly asked what to serve him. “A camel pack and bourbon,” he ordered. A wall panel opened and out slid a tray with a caramel colored drink and a pack of cigarettes. He laid eighteen credits down on the tray and it retracted when the merchandise was taken away.

Taking a sip, Teddy nearly gagged at the flavor. It wasn’t bourbon. He wasn’t even sure it was liquor. He inspected the cigarettes, afraid to slip one into his mouth and get the taste of disappointment. There was a camel, but a disclosure underneath stated they had clean lung filters. He put the pack back down.

With no smokes, no liquor, he had only one pleasure left. It was time to make trouble. He walked over to a center table and tapped on the empty chair next to a gorgeous blonde who was deep in conversation with her big boyfriend. “I’ve got fifty credits to spend and no hotel. What will you give me if we just take it outside?”

The woman couldn’t even respond, but her boyfriend stood up. “What,” he asked, more shocked than angry.

“Your woman looks like a Reenar stuffing machine, but not as durable. Promise I’ll be gentle.”

“Please leave, sir,” the man growled, but took no swing.

Teddy was tired of waiting. “Screw it,” he said under his breath and went for a punch in the other man’s gut. His hand slipped right through and he stumbled from the unexpected inertia. Another man was standing near where Teddy fell. Teddy got up and tried a jab at that man’s jaw. Again, he only hit air. Five more tries at anyone in the bar, including a dumpy, old lady, and he gave up. “Goddamn holograms! You’re all hiding in your houses, but pretending to be with a crowd. Stupid planet. I’m going back to where people actually know how to live.”

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Chronolicide, She Wrote

Author : J. S. Kachelries

It was a bright sunny morning when Angela Lansfield headed toward the Town library in Mendocino Cove. She was researching time travel for a new mystery novel she was writing. However, prior to diving into Hawking’s time travel theories, she decided to relax, by browsing the old newspapers in the historical files in the library’s basement. While there, she stumbled onto an article concerning one of the town’s most prominent families. Apparently, 40 years ago, Bill Windom had been kidnapped. There were no ransom demands, and he was released unharmed five weeks later. The kidnappers were never found.

Angela knew the Windom family. Bill and his wife had both died years ago, but Angela was still close friends with their only child, Mileva, who had served with Angela on the steering committee for the town’s Historical Society. Angela decided to visit Mileva to find out what she knew about the kidnapping.

“Oh, I’m sorry Angela,” Mileva explained, “I was only three years old at the time. I don’t remember anything about it. It must have been so horrible for mother. Why are you interested, anyway?”

“Well, Mileva, I was writing a story where my main character wanted to murder his older brother so he could inherit their parent’s entire estate. But he knew if his brother was obviously murdered, he would be the primary suspect, if not by the police, certainly by the press. His solution was to travel backward in time and murder his brother in the nursery. He could never be a suspect, since he wasn’t born yet.”

“That’s an interesting storyline, Angela, but what does it have to do with my father?”

“Well, it dawned on me that someone could accomplish the same thing by preventing the parents from conceiving the child in the first place. It’s much less messy too, wouldn’t you agree? That’s when I thought about your family. Your mother was already forty when you were born. If your parents were going to have a second child, they needed to do it soon. And then your father was kidnapped. Why? What was the motive? It certainly wasn’t ransom money. Then I put two and two together. You occasionally mention having a younger brother, although there is no record of his birth. Perhaps you have retained memories from that timeline. To be perfectly frank, Mileva, I think you traveled back into time and kidnapped your father to prevent him from conceiving your younger brother. Was it for the money, Mileva, or was it because your parents loved your brother more than you? I’m sorry, Mileva, but I have to ask the sheriff to reopen the case.”

“My goodness Angela, what an unbelievable hypothesis. You writers do have such active imaginations. Yes, by all means, feel free to talk to the sheriff. I don’t mind.”

A few minutes after Angela left, Mileva made a phone call. “Tom, I have a problem…”

…It was a bright sunny morning when Angela Lansfield headed toward the Town library in Mendocino Cove. She was researching time travel for a new mystery novel she was writing. When she turned the corner, she saw the town’s fire department in front of the library. She walked up to the fire chief. “My heavens, Chief, what happened? Nobody was hurt, I hope?”

“No one hurt, Mrs. L. The fire was confined to the basement. It completely destroyed the historic reference section. The rest of the library is okay though. If you want to wait in the Coffee Shop, we’ll open the library to the public in about an hour.”

“Thanks, Chief, that’ll be fine. Although I will miss reading those old newspaper articles.”

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Neanderthal Ted

Author : Andy Bolt

Sometimes, it’s fun to be surrounded by an army of mutant water buffalos with horrible skin conditions and bizarre, temporally unstable face tentacles. Other times, I’ll be running through Brazil and suddenly, one of the local amphibians will hop into the air, balloon up to massive size, and snatch a helipod out of the sky with a semi-sentient, prehensile tongue that is suddenly considering a run for congress. Plus, you haven’t lived until you’ve seen a field of precious lilies grow biomechanical arms and gang beat a man to death while shrieking Tom Jones songs at nausea inducing intrasonic levels.

I still hate Earth. I still hate humans.

My name is Ted. Well, actually, my name is a combination of potent chemicals, genetic information, and high frequency electromagnetics. “Hearing” it in all its glory would rewrite the DNA of the average human to the point where that individual would be totally unable to use a flush toilet, let alone understand what they were being told. So I go by Ted. Ted the alien.

I’m extra-dimensional, I come from outside of time as humans conceptualize it, and I’m from a galaxy far, far away. My species – let’s call them the Teds – are genetic telepaths. We communicate by sending compressed data streams that alter each others’ codon chains. In Tedland, it’s how we talk. On Earth, it makes me a biogenetic magician, capable of turning this planet’s clumsy organic mass into any number of forms, including several which would pop tiny human brains if made public. I’ve seen it happen.

I’m stuck here. You wouldn’t understand why.

The worst part is that my ability can’t be completely shut off. When I direct it, I can make the locals into whatever I like. When I don’t, everyone simply changes as my voice leaks out of me. Humans become stronger, smarter, and more creative entities. Their basic genetic profile is shifting. They are becoming little, Neanderthal Teds. These creatures are still far superior to normal humans, and their newly found voices change others. My best guess is that the human species will be completely gone within six months.

I have conquered this planet without trying. I don’t even want it.

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