Now We know

Author : TJMoore

Virgil crept through the vent blinking as the hot, humid wind caused tears to stream from his squinted eyes. The condensation caused him to slip and slide on the smooth, sweaty metal as he lifted himself up into a side shaft. The constriction made the air howl and Virgil had to push hard against the sides to keep from blowing back into the main vent.

Virgil rounded the last familiar bend and squeezed through a small rend in the screen. He caught the flick of a familiar tail at the far end of the vent.

It was Jarl.

Virgil crept up behind Jarl in the roaring torrent of moist air. He reached out and tweaked Jarl’s exposed tail with his major pincer. Jarl jerked, lost his purchase and hurtled, cartwheeling down the vent as the wind whipped him from his perch. He smacked hard into the screen and, after reorienting himself, glared up at Virgil’s mischievous grin.

“You didn’t have to do that!”

Jarl clawed his way back up the pipe to where Virgil waited and waved one of his secondary appendages at the exposed opening and the chaotic maelstrom beyond.

“It’s a pure underwear load!” he yelled excitedly over the howl of the constant wind.

Virgil snapped his head around and peered into the melee whirling around in front of him.

His mouth watered at the sight. Jarl pushed in next to him and started jabbing his primary into the turmoil trying to snag a bright pink sneaker sock that was near the center of the tumbling pile.

“Those will stain your teeth you know!” Virgil shouted even as he considered making a try for it himself.

Jarl gave a triumphant cheer as he snagged a frilly white piece of cloth that whipped by in front of his face.

Virgil laughed and pointed at the flimsy material fluttering on Jarl’s claw.

“It’s a dryer sheet you moron!” he laughed.

Jarl shook the inedible sheet off his claw and gave Virgil a snide glance.

“I thought it was lace panties.” He grumbled as he wiped the smelly softener residue off his pincer.

Virgil took the opportunity to snatch the pink sneaker sock from the turbulent tumble of clothes in front of him. Jarl’s insults echoed behind him as he hurtled down the vent and slipped through the screen.

“Hey! I don’t want any static from you!” Virgil laughed loudly as the air pushed him away with his prize into the darkness.

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Author : Duncan Shields

I was standing in the five star hotel’s transporter half a second ago. Destination: Corroway 6. Pleasure moon.

I am now standing in a cold, dark concrete basement. One dying fluorescent light stutters the room with camera flashes.

From what I can see, the room was a storage room of some sort. Utilitarian. Possibly military. No ornamentation. Everything in the room has been overturned and smashed a long time ago.

Not my destination, in other words.

I look down at the transporter pad I’m standing on.

It’s damp and not much bigger than a floor tile. The field circle definer is naked to the elements around the base like a hula hoop. Wires snake out from the base like streets from a European city. It’s with a cold pit of terror in my stomach I notice that one of assembler spikes is missing.

I’m trying very, very hard not to imagine what might have gone wrong inside me.

I am rich. I am not fit. I crouch and step off of the transporter into the dank concrete room. Wiring hangs down from the ceiling. There is a moldy pile of fabric in the corner. Condensation is already gathering on my thick moustache. It’s wet here. The floor and walls are slippery.

The stuttering light is hurting my eyes and doing exactly zero for my mental health.

Breathing quickly and rubbing my arms, I walk through the fog of my own breath towards what looks like the door out of here.

It opens just before I get there.

About six people a year disappear when using transporters. There’s a quantum collision, a little interference, a random energy wave and poof! No more traveler. Since there are about eleven million transports of both people and materials a day, this is considered acceptable.

I wonder if I am currently standing where they all go.

It would be a heartening thing to think of, all those people alive and well somewhere, if it wasn’t for what I’m seeing before me silhouetted in the doorway.

It looks like it may have been human at one point. Its head is long and its eyes glow in the shadows. It’s bipedal but the feet look too large.

With a wet click, its eyes change colour and I can feel myself being scanned.

I feel like I’ve been collected and it’s an entirely unpleasant feeling.

I’m picturing a big dish pointed out towards space just collecting what it can and occasionally snagging a human or a cargo load.

I’m thinking that whatever would do something like that would probably value a cargo load more than a witness.

I have no way to prove how rich I am unless I can get it to take me to a terminal. I have no way to get it to take me to a terminal unless I can talk to it.

I smile harder than I’ve ever smiled.

“Dirk Jensen. Head of offworld accounts.” I say, and put my hand forward.

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Will of Our Mother

Author : K. J. Russell

The warhead has been planted approximately twenty meters beneath solid granite. Physicist Arthrike Brogan stood before some three dozen people, those scientists and politicians of higher power or renown. “At that depth, what we see should be pretty much equivalent to if the warhead had actually been launched remotely.”

“And this weapon you’ve invented, Mr. Brogan,” came the voice of a reporter, cameraman in tow, “Can you tell us once more, for the record, what the theory behind it is?”

“It’s simply a vehicle of mass destruction, like the nuke, but without any fallout and far more precise. Please, though, let’s hold off on questions until after the test.” With a polite nod, the reporter went off and found a decent position from which to film. The camera’s lens was soon focused away from the white-and-grey city behind, looking out on the red Kansas dirt and the makeshift buildings that were peppered across the testing zone.

A feminine voice began, pre-recorded from a loudspeaker, “Twenty, nineteen…”

“There’s my cue!” Brogan made no effort to hide his confidence as he turned to the onlookers, “We’re five miles distant, and I’ve set the bomb to a mere one-mile radius. We’re perfectly safe. Just don’t look directly into the light.” Brogan placed a pair of dark glasses on his face, and the others followed suit. There was a moment of absolute silence, the onlookers holding their breath, everyone in the city confined to the indoors.

And then there was a sublime flash; a sudden burst of the purest white light. This was the detonation, all heat and photons, the entire body of the destructive force. It spread quickly, the corona moving at a few hundred feet per second. Brogan smiled to himself, imagining the dirt and stone melting, the mock buildings being disassembled at a molecular level. Everything was going as planned, and he felt his confidence transforming into arrogance as the blast hit the mile-mark. And at that exact moment, Brogan’s whole world seemed to fracture, everything to change. Except for the progression of the blast.

Brogan took an unconscious step back, his stomach tightened. As seconds continued, so did the light and destructive force proceed, even accelerate. At two miles, one of the politicians shouted to Brogan. He called back, “It’ll stop!” At three miles, many of the onlookers were fleeing, and Brogan repeated himself, “It’ll stop!” At four miles, Brogan’s eyes found the city and his thoughts spun about the wife and daughter he had there. “It has to stop.”

At five miles, he said nothing. It didn’t stop.

Some minutes later, a single man stood at the edge of a fifty-mile bowl of glass, eyeing briefly the smooth new cut of a city with only its outer-most fringes intact. His hands came together, carefully shutting the time-worn book he held, and his smiling lips formed words, “And so was the will of our Mother,” though he didn’t make a sound. He considered for a moment an ID that stated his assumed name and title, the chief aid to Arthrike Brogan. Artfully, he tossed it on the glass, disavowing it all.

He thought then of a biochemist he had heard of in Germany, working in controlled diseases that could no doubt be turned to tactical applications. So, as he spun and walked into the city, ignoring the rising cry of panicked survivors, he mused, “My name is Kasch Oeberon, a biochemist with an incredible knowledge of chemical weaponry; research, construction, and application.”

And muttering again his new name, Kasch hastened to collect his car. He had a flight to catch.

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The Brain

Author : Patrica Stewart

Tony Scandone, the Director of The Ministry of Global Economy, motioned to the servbot to refill his coffee cup. After satisfying himself that the coffee was properly sweetened, he raked the last few morsels of his desert onto his fork, then squeegeed it clean between his lips. “I’m telling you Carmen, those upgrades to The Brain are phenomenal. It now has two septillion Proto-synaptic connections. That’s six orders of magnitude more than a human brain. Furthermore, with the liquid helium bath and the superconductive materials, it’s blowing the nano-processors off that antique they have over in Defense. Did you happed see its soybean projections last year? Despite the drought in Antarctica, and the labor problems in China, The Brain nailed the final harvest totals to five significant figures. Unbelievable! And, how about those infrastructure capacity utilization calculations, the intermediate inflationary predictions, the exchange rate depreciation protocol, or the way it negatively amortized equilibrium capital against the total nonfinancial global deficit. It’s freakin’ fantastic! I’m telling you, Carmen, the way it determined the Fibonacci retracements relative to the cross elasticity of demand, or the short-run aggregate market’s effect on the new expansionary monetary policy, are eons ahead of what they imprinted on us in grad school? You watch Carmen; they’ll surplus us in five years. Hell, they could probably do it now. I’d love to retire early. Buy a habitat cell in one of those low-gee communities in orbit. Can you imagine the…”

The servbot glided discreetly into view, politely holding a tray with the lunch bill. It was perceptibly twitching between the two diners, unsure who to give the check to. “Ah, the moment of truth,” said Scandone as he reached into his breast pocket to pull out his link. “It’s time to see who pays for lunch. Brain, I’m here with Carmen, what’s the final score?”

The link responded, “The ’72 Dolphins defeated the ’85 Bears 17 to 13.”

“Awesome!” Scandone turned to the servbot. “I believe Carmen had the Bears and two and a half. Lunch is on him today.”

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Darwin Undercover

Author : TJMoore

It had been eons since Kra had left home for this mission. He’d known when he left that it was a one way trip, but now he was growing weary of this “Long Term” assignment. “Long Terminal” was more like it he joked to himself for maybe the millionth time.

The invasion had been covert. Even, or maybe especially, from the planetary counsel. That honorific body of archaic pacifists would never have the audacity, or the nerve in Kra’s opinion, to undertake such an auspicious plan. Kra’s consortium of scientists had taken action. Kra had been the logical choice from the pool of volunteers because of his prodigious knowledge of genetics and evolutionary trends.

So far, Kra had successfully exterminated over three million species of potentially dangerous or over competitive life forms. He had also introduced and nurtured his own genome throughout the millennia and, if all went well, the final phase of the plan would begin on schedule.

He lounged back and selected his favorite transmission from the archives. It was called a “movie” which was short for “moving picture“, the logical progression from a “still”. This one was the more advanced “talkie” where the sound was incorporated in a side-band and written dialog was no longer needed.

Kra chuckled again as the movie started. The irony was just too amusing. This “movie” was titled “The War of the Worlds” and in the end, the invaders from Mars were killed off, not by the humans, but rather, by the natural pathogens found in the air of Earth. Kra laughed out loud as he mused that those pathogens were the genetic legacy of the initial genome he had released on the day of his attack. And in a few thousand years, the earth would in fact, be populated by Martians.

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