Girlfriend

Author : Marco Chacon

She had one of those new things: A USB port in the back of her neck, just under the skull. We’d plug her in at parties and, with the controller, she’d do all kinds of wild things—karaoke, belly dancing, there was even a “Mardi gras button”–but we didn’t use it too much.

Afterwards, she wouldn’t remember anything but a soft warm feeling.

My friends said I was the luckiest guy alive (none of their girlfriends would do it) but I wasn’t too sure.

When I hugged her, I’d run my fingers through her hair and I’d feel the little holes with their metal teeth.

We tried some downloaded porno-ware but her eyes were like glass marbles when she was jacked. It kinda creeped me out.

When they came out with the new ones she didn’t have the money to upgrade and I don’t think it’s a coincidence we got into a lot of fights around that time. We sort of drifted apart.

“You’re whacked,” my friends said. “That’s a dream girl.”

“It’s totally on fire,” they said, “no one’s getting hurt.”

“What’s the matter with you,” they said, “it’s hotter than you deserve—you better hang on to that.”

But I let her go. Today when I’m asked, I tell people we were incompatible.

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Time and Again

Author : Steven Perez

The drive to Persepolis from Shiraz had been longer than expected due to an unexpected radiator leak, and at that moment, all I wanted to do was stand up and walk around. I’ve always loved to visit the ruins here, mostly because I have a fondness for the era of the Persians. This time, though, my visit had a much darker purpose.

The Land Rover finally came to a stop near the entrance of the tomb in question, and the team piled out and started taking out the gear in the back. The local authorities always groused a bit whenever we showed up in the area, but they realize that the work we do is vital to the good of the entire world, so they don’t kick too much. But it still spooks some people to see us in the flesh, so we tread carefully.

The perimeter finally comes together, and Saunders fires up the generator. The lights coalesce together, and the rift is finally visible to the human eye. I hate dimensional rifts.

“Looks like we have more fugitives,” Kendra says with no small amount of disdain. The suits upstairs call them “temporal trespassers”. The teams spread out across the world came up with a simpler name for them: “fugitives”, after a story by Harlan Elison about time-travelers.

“Geez, you’d think these guys would learn,” Sung Li growls.

I bring everyone out of their reveille. “OK, so let’s find them.”

We lock onto their temporal signals and locate them quickly; scavengers from the 22nd Century. That figures; with all the horrible wars from that century, it’s a wonder that the human race survived as long as it did. Things must be really bad if the fugitives had taken to trying to alter history from distant locus points along the continuum.

We quickly seal the breach and leave a little something in case the rotters come back. Satisfied that we performed out jobs adequately, the team repacked our gear and waited for the extraction point back to the 835th Century. I would drive the SUV back to Shiraz so as not to arouse too many suspicions. Right on schedule, the null point formed and swept the team up into the vortex and back home.

I stared out over the remains of an ancient human civilization for a long while and couldn’t help but wonder how much might have been different had the humans not killed each other.

The things a machine thinks about with time on his hands, eh?

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Screening

Author : Daniel Longwing

Two steps forward, don’t shuffle your feet. You already accrued three points in the way you took off your shoes…

Don’t look at the carpet. Don’t look at the carpet! Sod, that’ll be another four points for not looking the guard in the eye with a friendly and nonchalant smile.

The man in riot gear with the machine gun and the mirrored face-mask gestures to the left. Smile at him. Friendly. Friendly. Yes, that’s it, pretend your reflection is his face and give him a nod. This man is your friend and is here to help you. Tell yourself that.

Good. Keep your face relaxed, calm but alert. Only affable expressions of optimism and happiness. Place your belongings on the conveyor belt. Yes, they could get stolen while you go through the scanner… Don’t think about that, don’t get nervous. Don’t look nervous…

Your brow was creased while you talked to the scanner operator. That’s going to be an easy 5, maybe 6 points. The interrogation went well though, you revealed all relevant information about your age, sex, political, religious, and work background. You even managed to ease in your financial status without breaking the veneer of a pleasant conversation. Good. That will all go into the database, they know nothing has changed since the last time you were asked in the lobby.

Think positive, think happy. You are happy. Being surrounded by guns and scanners and trigger-happy paranoiacs makes you safe. That was a bitter thought. Check your face… Expression still good, it didn’t get out. It was funny, but you’re just a few points shy of being singled out for “examination”.

There are your belongings. Don’t look at them for too long. Good good. Concerned, but not too much. They’ve got your shoes and clothes ready too…

One last step. Don’t screw up… Talk to the woman holding your clothing….

“Social Security Number 358-63-3269?”

“That’s me.” Smooth. Good smile, just hold it for a moment…

“Here are your clothes, please retrieve your belongings from the belt. You’ve passed initial screening and psychological profiling. The background check will clear momentarily.” The woman handed him an official document. “Show this to all personnel, hesitation could lead to arrest, and 3269?”

“Yes?”

“Thank you for flying with us today.”

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Parallel Universe

Author : J. S. Kachelries

As the spaceship exited the wormhole, its forward thrusters brought it to a relative stop. The ship sat motionless for an hour as its two occupants tried to determine their location. The pilot, Teeh Ar, balled his two-fingered ‘hands’ into fists, and slowly pivoted to confront his navigator snout-to-beak. “Lost! What do you mean lost?” The vertical slits that were Teeh’s pupils looked like steel daggers in his large, dark cobalt-blue eyes. Then, in a voice two octaves lower than normal, he growled “Pterry, if you don’t find out where we are in one minute, I’m going to bite your head off.” For effect, Teeh bared his upper row of eight inch long, serrated, razor sharp teeth, and snarled.

The 60 pound navigator raised his slender wings over his head and made the thin membranes quiver mockingly with feigned fear. “Oh my God, the mighty King Lizard is going to bite my head off. I’m soooo scared. Ha, ha, ha. Who are you trying to kid? You’re a stinkin’ scavenger, not a predator. You couldn’t bite my head off unless I was already dead. You really crack me up.” Pterry folded his long graceful wings and continued to adjust the dials on his control panel while he searched for a navigation beacon. He considered radioing for directions, but he was male, so that was out of the question until things got really desperate, and probably not even then. “Look, your majesty, if you’re done blustering, make yourself useful. See if you can pick up a station on the holovision. Maybe I can follow the signal back to a subspace transmitter.” Pterry paused momentarily, and then said, “Hey, you know, maybe that wormhole sent us to a parallel universe, or something. I was watching a show about String Theory last month. They said there are 11 dimensions, containing infinite universes. Maybe we jumped into a universe where the Earth is ruled by insects or mammals, rather than dinosaurs.”

“Mammals? You mean like mice? Don’t be ridiculous. Their young can’t live two days without their mommies. How could they ever rule the world?” Just then, the image of a cute, female Allosaurus came into focus on the holovision. Relieved, Teeh said, “Well, there goes your parallel universe crap. I just got ‘Raptor and Friends’ on the projector.” Teeh leaned back and watched the perky, substitute co-host for a few seconds. “You have to admit, she looks pretty good for someone that just hatched twin eggs a few years back.”

Pterry ignored Teeh’s commentary as he attempted to get a fix on the signal. “OK,” he said, “I think this will work. Once I establish a second link, I can triangulate our position, and determine our spatial coordinates. But pleeeease, do me a favor. Switch it to DNN? I can’t stand that network. ‘Fair and balanced’ my tailbone.”

However, Teeh was still smarting from Pterry’s earlier defamatory comments, so he wasn’t in a conciliatory mood. Besides, he liked Raptor News. His eye ridges came together to form a “V” in the center of his forehead, and he grinned. “Listen beak-head, consider it motivation. If you don’t get us home by 8:00 tonight, you’re going to have to watch the Stegosaurus Factor.”

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Perfect Match

Author : Hannah F

“What do you mean, you knew it wouldn’t work out?” Emma’s brow furrowed as she regarded me across the table. “I watched the simtapes with you; I saw the results. Everything- preferences, intellectual profile, moral standing, even your damn sleep cycles said you two would be a perfect match! How could you have been sure- from ten minutes of actually seeing the man- that it wouldn’t work out?”

I sighed, and leaned forward a little bit, clasping my hands in front of me on the table. “I saw him sit down like this,” I explained miserably. Emma’s face was blank, still uncomprehending. I stretched my right hand, trying to emphasize. “He clasped his hands, and his right thumb was on top.” I shuffled my fingers until I sat comfortably. She stared in disbelief.

“You dumped him because he was right-handed?”

“Not hand dominance, thumb dominance.” I shook my head. “I’m left-thumb dominant. It never would have worked- the second we held hands, everything would have been over.”

“I think you’re full of it.”

I slid off my chair and into the empty one between us, and lifted her left hand with my right, slipping my right thumb over her left, regardless of how uncomfortable I found it.

Her eyes widened. “Oh…”

I let her go and slid back into my seat. We finished our meals without another word.

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