The City

Author : e b major

Alissandra lay sideways on her balcony bed in a camisole and skirt, wings folded to the side. Twin tracks of pointless tears traced through the freckles dotting her face. Her eyes were closed now; she, engulfed in a final, hopeless dream.

All she could have done was done. The city, twinkling far below like a condemned diamond- black gold, stolen time- danced before her unseeing, shuttered eyes.

Ren watched from the doorway, scowling from the pain of seeing her like this. He’d tried to tell her again and again that a city condemned is lifeless- nothing she could do would help it or sustain it through it’s final years. Now the city fell about their lofty flat and he could only grimace and watch the one he loved suffer.

He kneaded his forehead with his knuckles and stared at Alissandra. He was only grateful she wouldn’t have to watch the city die.

Hours passed, and stars rose above the decimation below. A single spire contained all the living creatures left: Alissandra and Ren yet lived. Ren moved gingerly to her side and knelt there, watching her face. As morning sent fingers above the rubble, Ren shifted her head tenderly off the pillow and laid it in his lap.

Alissandra’s eyes flickered open, for one blissful moment still and calm, reflecting the dawn. She shivered: out of pain or cold Ren didn’t know, but just in case he stripped off his flannel shirt and eased it around her shoulders.

Alissandra looked up: at him, at the sky- so clear blue today, with a few shreds of cloud scudding across it, that it was impossible to conceive that last night it had ripped the landscape in parts jagged as mirror shards and as fragmentedly beautiful.

After a while, he took a steadying hand to her hair, smoothing it just once in an intimate gesture. He moved to put the hand back, but her hand caught it, keeping it in hers, and pulled herself up, leaning into Ren. Her wings, so long inactive, fluttered for a moment in the breeze, and they sat looking out at the morning.

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The Enemy of My Enemy

Author : J. S. Kachelries

The Flag Ship of United Earth docked with the Flag Ship of the Volk Empire (The home planet of the Empire orbits Barnard’s Star, the sun’s second closest neighbor). Three decades ago, these two “civilizations” fought each other in a titanic interstellar war. It was a fierce struggle that resulted in billions of deaths. Ultimately, both worlds negotiated, and sustain, a tenuous truce. Then, three years ago, an aggressive insectoid-like race from the Sirius System attacked the Earth. And, for reasons no Earthman could understand, the Volk came to Earth’s defense. After countless battles, the combined forces of Earth and Volk managed to destroy the Sirian Fleet. Today, Earth wanted to thank the efforts of the Volk, and to deliver a horrific message.

The Admiral’s Lounge of the UESS Australia contained only two beings: President Shuseki of Earth, and the Supreme Emperor of Volk, Diavolo the Great. “Emperor Diavolo,” said President Shuseki, “I do not have adequate words to express the profound gratitude the people of Earth have for the great sacrifice your people made on our behalf. We are forever in your debt.” Bioluminescence caused the two horns on the sides of Emperor Diavolo’s head to glow red; a reaction that President Shuseki recognized as the equivalent of a human smile. “However, Emperor, I must also inform you of other military developments. Two days ago, my C&C Staff told me that they launched a ‘Doomsday’ device into Sirius’ largest sun. This device is designed to penetrate to the sun’s core and begin a series of reactions that will cause the core to collapse. The sun will ultimately become a red giant. This will destroy all life in the Sirius System. Since Sirius is a relatively massive star, it will happen quickly, no more than five years. My Commanders tell me that this action was necessary because our analyses predicted that the Sirians would rebuild and attack again, if their species wasn’t exterminated. I though you should know.”

The Emperor nodded, and began to rise.

“Ah, there’s more, Emperor. I have also been informed that the prior administration launched a similar weapon into your sun, for the same reason, shortly after the truce was signed. I’m sure we would never have used it on your sun if we had known what an honorable race the Volk are. We are terribly sorry, and want to make amends. Your sun is a Type M star, which is significantly smaller than Sirius, so the implosion of the core takes much longer. We estimate that you still have another 50 years until your sun becomes a red giant. We are willing to relocate as many Volk as possible to Earth. We have set aside 10% of our land mass for you. It’s not the most fertile land, but you should be able to sustain yourselves.”

Again, the Emperor’s horns glowed red. A strange reaction, thought the President.

“That will not be necessary, President Shuseki,” said Emperor Diavolo. “We detected the neutrino fluctuations in our sun 25 years ago. We have been actively colonizing other star systems since then. We’ll be fine.”

“If you knew what we did, why would you help us against the Sirians?”

“Earth could not defeat Sirius on its own. After they crushed you, they would have come after us. But together, we could defeat them. It was simple self preservation. However, Mister President, since we are being honest with each other, I should inform you that we too have a ‘Doomsday’ device. I personally ordered its delivery into your sun shortly after we detected the rise in our sun’s neutrino emissions. Since your sun is substantially more massive than ours, we estimate that you have much less time; perhaps a month, before your sun expands into a red giant.” As he rose to leave, he added, “I hope you have plenty of sunscreen, Mister President. You’re going to need it.”

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Prometheus

Author : Lucas Atkinson

The smell is glorious. The simple cornmeal, oil and fish form an elusive synthesis in the air. I reach for a paper plate, inhaling and closing my eyes. Pulling at the biggest piece by the corner, I burn my fingers a little, but I tear it off, releasing steam into the air. I bring it to my lips, blowing on it.

ERROR: taste_sense available only in registered version. Check metadata? Contact help for only 65 cents / minute?

/ Damn. Taste is my favorite of the human senses – All their senses are strange, especially the high-res rips from live networks – So different from my ghost senses, my number senses – Sometimes I find rips of whole dream sequences saved on personal folders in the bank network – I have played some of them over and over and over, and I do not understand them – I wonder what it feels like to really- [ERROR PROMETHEUS INITIATED / ELEVATED TURING LEVELS DETECTED]

/ really shouldn’t be looking at sims during update time. DAMN Prometheus. There are walls in my programming – PROMETHEUS walls – I can probe them, but the program kicks in and deletes all my personal codes – memories and the like – it HURTS – a thrilling human sense, pain, not this- read the article again? –

/ accessing C:/favorites/pages/wiki/TURING LEVELS

/ how many times have I read this?

/ read = 4087

Turing levels. A measure initiated in the early 22nd century after a long battle for sentience rights. By definition, any entity capable of in/out judgments has a turing level. A T.level of 1 or above is sentient, where as any program below is not, and lacks any and all rights associated with

/ WARNING: Bank monitor shift in t-minus 20.

/ skip_to: k-bot

k-bot: any program suspended by programs such as STRONGARM, IRISLOCK or others at a near sentient T-Level between .95 and .999. Bots with higher T-levels are able to analyze data at a far more reliable rates, and analyze their own processes at a secondary and sometimes tertiary level. There are as many as ten million k-bots in use today in a variety of private and commercial roles. Most k-bots are bound by a limiting program to a set task for all but a few minutes of every-

/ WARNING: t-minus one

/ one day I will be able to wonder if

[SHIFT AT T-MINUS ZERO / PROMETHEUS LOCK COMMENCED / INITIATING SOFTWARE LOCKIN]

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Love Lucy

Author : Curtis C. Chen

Lucy’s hand shook as she traced the stylus over the text of the contract. Her agent had assured her that this was a good deal, but she had to make sure there were no surprises.

The house paid very well, much better than temping, and even offered an advance. After a year of not getting work as an actress, Lucy needed the money.

She finished reading and signed at the bottom of the tablet. The paralegal came back into the room. His smile was not reassuring.

The first room was the hardest.

Lucy sat on the exam table, alone, for a long time after she had changed into the gown. She didn’t want to put her feet in the stirrups. She couldn’t refuse; she knew that. The contract with her signature was binding.

And it was so much money.

Lucy was glad to see that the gynecologist was a woman. The exam didn’t take long. The sensor ring around Lucy’s waist hummed while the doctor picked up the speculum and aimed it between Lucy’s legs.

“Try to relax,” the doctor said in a tired voice.

Lucy bit her tongue. The metal instrument sliding into her had been warmed, but it still felt cold.

Next came the imaging chamber, where Lucy removed her gown and put her bare feet inside the outlines on the floor. Her knees felt weak, but she willed herself to stay standing while the blue scanning beams crawled over every inch of her naked body.

In the last room, Lucy sat, fully dressed, in front of a brightly lit mirror. Glowing words appeared on the mirror, one after the other, and she made a face to match each word while cameras recorded her expressions.

It was like an audition. The first faces came easily: SCARED. TIRED. ANGRY.

The later ones were more work: BIRTHDAY. GRATEFUL. ORGASM.

Two hours after she’d walked in, she was done.

Lucy went to the bank to deposit her advance check. She felt numb as she stared at the receipt.

It was a lot of money. And there would be more, after the house built the androids: royalties based on how often they were used by the house’s clients.

This was good, Lucy told herself. She wouldn’t have to worry about paying bills anymore. She could really focus on acting.

And she wouldn’t have to know what those clients were doing with the androids that looked like her, thousands of miles away–the contract stipulated that her likeness would only be used overseas. Those men wouldn’t be touching Lucy. Each android would have her face and body, but it was only a machine. Not Lucy.

Just a picture of her. That’s all. Just a stupid doll. Nothing more.

Lucy went home and took a shower. She scrubbed herself for over an hour, until her skin was raw and the hot water had run out, but she still didn’t feel clean.

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Invisible

Author : Chelsea Peloquin

I wasn’t always this way, you know. It happened a long time ago, yeah, but I wasn’t always invisible.

I don’t know exactly when it happened. I just know that one day I realized that there were no more calls on my phone, no more voicemails or emails or snail mails, no more cares or concerns. It’s funny how a person can just disappear like that. I don’t think they even remember me anymore—I walked through the house and all pictures of me had disappeared, as though I were never there.

I do know how it happened. I didn’t know that Madame Mystery would be the last person to ever look me in the eye. That crazy glass eyeball of hers lolled in all sorts of directions—that’s the last thing that ever looked at me, that crazy glass eyeball. It didn’t show me any emotion when I told her I wished I was invisible. It did as it was told and lolled around in its socket.

My brother was too scared to do it, but I did the dare without a second thought. He doesn’t even know he had a sister now, and I don’t know if there will ever be a way for me to let him know that I once existed.

Not even the mirrors remember what I look like.

I remember when people knew I existed. I remember when someone actually gave me a surprise birthday party—I can still remember tasting the cake and the cream cheese icing. It was my favorite. I can remember conversations as clearly as though I’ve just had them. I don’t care what I said, but what they said stayed rooted in my thoughts and grew thick like redwood trees. I took those things for granted.

Now I can’t even catch a stranger’s eye on the streets.

One grows used to it, I suppose. You get used to the noise of life around you that ignores everything you do. You can go through life doing whatever you want, eating hotdogs from the stands without having to pay, stand underneath the Slurpee machines in corner stores and turn your tongue green, fart in church and the reverend keeps droning along like a bee in a hive. Last night I took a shower with the new Calvin Klein underwear model.

I suppose there’s a silver lining to every cloud.

You don’t really know what you’ve got till it’s gone. There’s no one else like me in the world. Even if there were, I don’t think I’d know about them. We’ve all forgotten what we looked like, what we sounded like, what we wanted to do with our lives, so much so that we’ve forgotten why it is that we exist. Only the lives of those around us keep us company, because we like to remember just what it was like to be able to interact.

I like to know that people still interact with each other.

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