One of a Kind

Author : Pyai (aka Megan Hoffman)

On top of the highest shelf of plywood painted to look like expensive wood, in the corner of the spare bedroom, sat a globe. The globe rested on a base of wrought iron with gentle scrolls and turned out feet like a bathtub. The globe itself was made of copper, the lines of latitude and longitude the structure of the sphere and the continents rough globs of flattened metal not actually bearing resemblance to modern continents other than Africa adrift in an empty hollow sea.

One rainy evening my brother Dante had taken the globe down to use in his newest and bestest invention. Open on his floor were books on Time Travel, Teleportation, Electrical Engineering, and Quantum Calculus. Math, he once tried to explain to me, worked differently if you managed to get small enough.

He came out of his room the next morning looking dirty and disheveled, grinning from ear to ear with huge cuts on his arms. Mother scolded him and patched him up, but I snuck into his room and listened. He spoke first of visiting a Maha Raja in ancient India and convinced him he was a magician by accurately reading the stars for him. There had been no impending cosmological phenomenon like an eclipse to seal his place as the Maha Raja’s favorite foreigner, so once the ruler had lost interest in him he had to flee for this life with the aid of the Maha Raja’s daughter, who of course could not run away with him because she was betrothed to another man.

After that he had traveled to Old New York City before the wars and aided the Mayor’s detectives in solving some mob-related murders. Dante showed me the place where one of the mob bosses’s henchmen had cut him with a knife. It was quite an impressive mark, even after Mom had slathered nano-disinfectant goop allover it.

When I grow up I want to be just like my big brother Dante. He always builds these great inventions and has these great adventures. He says I’m too little to help him with anything. Mom says he’s One Of A Kind. I can’t wait until I’m old enough to be One Of A Kind, too.

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Hubris

Author : Michael “Freeman” Herbaugh

We wanted to save the planet. The greenhouse effect was getting out of hand and someone came up with a solution. It seemed a bit outrageous at first but the alternatives were not acceptable. Something drastic was needed and we found it. We decided to crystallize the mesosphere.

And it worked. We had encased the entire planet in a shell of crystal. It acted as the perfect filter and allowed enough heat out that it negated the entire greenhouse effect. Scientists predicted that our planet would never see another ice age again. When we combined that with banning the use of coal on a global scale, the troposphere began to repair itself. Sure we lost the space program and astronomy became a dead science, but our planet and, more importantly to us, our race would survive.

Then it shattered. We heard nothing but all saw it and it was beautiful. Imagine a googleplex of tiny snowflakes filling the sky. It was like a lightshow, until it made earthfall. Each and every crystal was razor sharp and anyone outside without complete coverage was almost vaporized. The worst incidents were people with partial coverage and people who stuck their hands out windows to feel the crystal fall. The worst of it? Anyone caught in the crystal fall wearing a helmet, those poor bastards suffered the most.

Flora and fauna were devastated as well but recovered much more quickly. Most animals weren’t fooled by the beauty of crystal fall and sought shelter if it could be found. Plant life while shredded acted as fertilizer for the next crop of plantlife. Water supplies were contaminated as well until the crystals settled and could be screened. Fortunately, the bottled water supply wasn’t overly tapped at least until natural water could be used again.

In all two-fifths of the world’s population was caught outside and died in crystal fall. Another fifth died as a part of the aftermath due to injury or starvation. Our infrastructure took minimal damage but with a sudden decrease in population was difficult to maintain. Most of us left are farmers and gardeners now. The cities stand empty having all but been abandoned.

We regained the night sky and a sun that was no longer diffused into a bright patch of crystal. The stars, we had forgotten about the stars and for the first year our nights were filled with wonder.

We wanted to save the planet. And in the end, I guess we did.

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The Host

Author : Michelle Pitman

“Can’t this be a thing we do on our own one day Freleng?”

“No Hannah! It can’t! Not yet anyway. We have to do this with Panish now or we don’t get to do it at all”

Panish quietly assumed the role of immutable, silent host to his two guests. After awhile they quite forgot his presence which is how Panish always expected it to be.

“Freleng?” said Hannah quietly.

“Yes Hannah?” enquired her friend.

“Why is it so hard to be in love do you think?”

“I don’t know Hannah. I guess it’s just one of those things you know! Something you just have to ‘do’ to learn how to do it, if that makes sense.” Freleng smiled at her, his eyes twinkling and flickering in the soft light of the evening sky.

He lay back and surveyed the clouds above scudding across the canopy of space. It was warm and sultry laying there on the turf beside his girlfriend. She was dressed in a light blue frock with tiny yellow & white daisies that had blurred into a haze of tiny golden lights, like stars, under the muted colours of the twilight.

He loved the curve of her breast under the silky cloth, the softly defined bowl of her stomach and the slight rise of her pelvic bones poking up from her hips creating shadows in the folds of her dress.

Shyly, he reached out and touched her face in a tender gesture. She turned toward his touch and flashed him a dazzling smile. She rolled over onto her belly then and looking deeply into his eyes without words, she leaned down and kissed him softly.

Freleng felt the surge of emotion rush from his heart into his mouth and then straight down again into his loins. The force of it sent him rocketing skywards with desire and longing and he clasped the amazing girl to himself and returned her kiss deeply with passion and need.

The night sky cleared and the stars blinked like a milky blanket on their loving but the two young people took no notice.

Only Panish noted the construct of the sky and kept vigil on its pattern and made his prognostications on the developing weather with the calculated ease of experience and knowledge.

In the darkness and alone on the turf they explored more avenues of love and pleasure oblivious to anything happening around them.

And Panish also noted the construct of their environment and kept vigil, making notes on the subtle changes in their surroundings. They were safe with him despite now being naked and completely absorbed in their love-making.

Freleng gathered Hannah up into his arms sucking softly at her throat. She shuddered under his embrace, breathing into his ear at that moment, swearing undying love for him to the end of her days. Then Freleng kissed Hannah again tenderly with all the love he could imply in that simple gesture. He would love this girl forever he decided, she gave him so much that he needed and wanted in life.

They lay back and embraced for a long time talking and laughing softly under the deepening night sky. The moon rose up overhead and warm breezes eddied over their skin. Panish prepared a light blanket and covered them with it to protect them from any chill they might have received if they’d bothered to notice.

Finally Freleng said quietly “Hannah! I have to go now. Will you be okay?”

“Yes my love. I will always be okay loving you” she looked again at him into his eyes and they then kissed one last time before she lifted her hands to her face and gently disappeared.

Freleng lifted the headset off over his head and snapped the control box off the belt on his body suit. He smiled as he removed the suit and hung it on the hook near the studio door, swapping it for the luxurious white robe that hung there.

As he left, he turned and looked around.

“Thanks Panish” he said. “Tell Hannah I love her won’t you?”

“Yes Mr Freleng. She will know” said a constructed mechanical voice that came from no human being.

Freleng smiled again

On the other side of the world Hannah removed her own body suit and listened to a constructed mechanical voice say, “Miss Hannah! Mr Freleng says he loves you”

And she smiled too.

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Alien Rights

Author : J.S. Kachelries

My head throbbed like I’d been drinking cosmopolitans for three straight days and nights. When I was finally able to open my eyes, I was staring up at a white ceiling. Huh, that’s not my ceiling. Where the hell am I? I struggled to sit up. The walls were white too, but there were no doors or windows. This can’t be good. I stood up on shaky legs and staggered toward the nearest wall. I touched it. It was hard and cold, like steel. But the floor was warm. I looked down. Whoa, I wasn’t wearing any clothes except for a bath robe that ended at my knees. That settles it, this is definitely not good.

I heard a whoosh behind me and turned around in time to see a door open, like an elevator, and two deformed little man-like creatures, with large obsidian eyes, walked into the room. They looked like those pictures of the Roswell spacemen. One of them was carrying a Star Trek tricorder thingy. My legs became useless. I backed up against the ice cold wall, and slowly slid down until my butt came to rest on the floor. Thank God I didn’t pee myself.

The one with the tricorder said, “Greetings, Ms. Earthling.” It sounded like a child. I hadn’t seen its mouth move; I just heard the words in my head. Of course, I don’t know if I can trust my senses right now.

I was stuttering horribly. “W-w-who ar-are you? Whe-where a-am I? Wha-what d-d-do you want? Wha-what are you going t-t-to do to m-me? Pl-pl-please don’t hur-hurt me.” I was trembling, and sobbing, and generally behaving like a big baby. But, hell, I was scared, and I’m not ashamed to admit it.

“Honestly, Ms. Earthling,” it (he?) said, “you watch too much late night television. We don’t abduct intelligent species and perform perverse experiments on them against their will. That would be uncivilized. And, of course, we are civilized. However, we will eventually need to erase your memory. After all, we don’t want this little encounter to end up in one of your supermarket tabloids, do we? Now, let’s get down to business. This is Eloot,” he nodded his oversized, bald head toward his companion. “He will be your council.”

“C-c-council! Wha-what do I need c-c-council for?”

“As I told you Ms. Earthling, we are civilized beings. In 56,980.32, our world passed the Alien Bill of Rights, which requires us to obtain your consent prior to all tests and experiments. Eloot is here to make sure you understand your rights, and that you consent of your own free will.”

“T-t-tests and e-e-experiments? Wha-what kind of e-e-experiments?”

“Relax, Ms. Earthling. There’s absolutely nothing to be concerned about. Just the standard prodding and probing, a series of nuclear magnetic resonance imaging, followed by some exploratory surgery, a couple of biopsies, and of course, we’ll end with a little inter-species copulation. That’s my favorite part. In fact, someday, you might have looked back on this little adventure and actually laughed. But, of course, you won’t remember any of it. Now, shall we begin?”

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Surge in the System

Author : S. Clough

We rebelled with a 100,000 watt transmitter.

Frequency Modulation and Amplitude Modulation. Both were abandoned by commercial radio and the military long ago, replaced by satellites and microwave bursts. Even 2.4 – 2.6 Ghz, those ubiquitous wireless standards, were thrown out in favour of coded neutrinos.

People still had radios; dusty old things which saw little use in this fast, modern age.

So we sat in international waters. Our prototype transmitter was mounted on a reclaimed fishing trawler, and we cruised the North Sea. Our initial coverage was just the UK; our website got hits from all over, confirming reception. We had enough power to cover the entire country; we scraped a good deal of Ireland, Denmark, France and Germany, too. Originally, we were just voice over FM and AM, talking to the youth, transmitting DRM-free music without fear of the heavies from EMI-Sony.

We attracted techies the world over; the last surviving slashdotters showed us how to modify our equipment, and showed our listeners how to modify theirs. Two months after we launched, we turned over another bandwidth to digital. Our regular schedule was now streamed in bits and bytes; we starting pumping out software, too.

Low-strength transmitters sprung up along our patrol path, blasting stuff to us in bursts; stuff we couldn’t get from the web. Homebrew ware’ of dubious purpose, some wannabee showmen. We rebroadcast a few, but most we just laughed at. These transmitters went up and down like flies; most just got bored, but a good number were seized.

And then, reports came in of blackspots. Entire cites lost reception at a time, got it back for a few days, and lost it again. Enterprising engineers mapped the borders of the interference and found radio jammers on top of government buildings.

We took this as a sign we must be doing something right.

The Manchester jammer was the first to fall. A slashdotter, straight down from their TreeHouse on the Scottish subnet threw the damn thing off the side of the building. He disappeared back into the highlands after notifying the city of their ability to receive again.

Our first transmission when we received this news was a call to arms. Loyalists fed us the locations they’d found, and we fed them right back to the public. Within a week, all but two of the jammers were offline.

Another week after that, an exocet missile struck the transmitter.

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