4B45 494B 6F

Author : Dee Harding

Keiko 610618, or ‘keiko610’, as her work is signed, has just returned from yet another business meeting in a far flung industrial sector. Making idle conversation, we ask her if she enjoyed her flight, we ask her where she’s been. She simply shakes her head, amused, and almost seductively mouths the letters, “n… d… a”.

Changing tack we ask her about her other work, and how she’s finding her current stint at the Marlin’s Reach galleries. “Wonderful” she replies coyly, and just as we get the feeling that this is going to be a difficult interview, she continues…

“I never thought that it would get any further than my own pleasure. That what I find interesting, and exciting, would have a wider appeal. But just as I have in life as a whole, I’ve found myself proven wrong at every turn. That’s what’s wonderful about it.” For the uninitiated in fringe art, keiko610 is this season’s big thing, and she’s taken to the sensation like a duck to water. She’s also an android.

While people are stunned that this exotic creature should even be capable of producing such intuitive (if tiny) sculptures and objet d’art, she herself claims to be surprised by the positive reaction she has engendered in the public. “I’m perpetually amazed by people, myself included. I was given birth for certain duties, and I enjoy them. I consider myself good at them.” Keiko is contracted by Zeus-Ethera Shipping Corporation and effectively represents their entire administrative staff. “but at the same time, because I have those facilities, and because I’m good at my job, I find myself in quiet moments, exploring, sorting, trying to make sense of things, and sometimes the results are…” she pauses, for what can only be affect, “Unexpected. On every scale.” Her language gives the truth to that statement, betraying traits we expect to find in ourselves, rather than in what is, in effect, an extremely elegant sculpture given life. The fractal nature of her art is not beyond her. “I must admit that there is some humour in my approach to all this, otherwise I would never have been able to work with you in the past”. Faced with Keiko’s innocent features we’re not quite sure if we’ve been complemented or insulted, but she is, of course, referring to her brief stint as an i-O model last year. “Obviously I’m very grateful for that opportunity, and I enjoyed myself immensely, but I don’t think I’ll be coming back to it very soon. Business moves relentlessly on, after all.” And with that she winks at us in complex irony, and leaves, stretching out like one of her own perfectly formed figurines for another unnamed business destination.

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Layover

Author : Dr. Alexanders

Kevin stared upward at the “Arrivals/Departures” sign in the main concourse of the Europa Delta Interplanetary Spaceport. He blinked, rubbed his eyes, and looked again. The information didn’t change, not a single number. It read:

IBSF #452

Europa Delta, Jupiter to Gatwick, U.K., Earth

Scheduled Departure: 18:45, Aug. 23, 2159

Scheduled Arrival: 03:22, Aug. 29, 2159

—DELAYED— 83d 13hr 27min

Glancing around the concourse he saw a customer service desk on the other side of a throng of Brazilian tourists. When they didn’t immediately part for him he simply pushed his way through so that when he finally reached the desk he was followed by strings of what he assumed were Portuguese curses and swear words. A slender, blonde woman wearing the standard spaceport uniform took a second to finish whatever she had been typing and then looked up at him with a false smile.

“And how can I help you today, sir?” Her eyes flicked past him for an instant to the Brazilians who were still shouting at him incomprehensibly.

“I think there has been a mistake… my flight, ummm, here’s my ticket; the board over there says that my flight’s going to be over eighty-three days late.” He started to laugh and then stopped when he realized she wasn’t laughing with him. Instead she looked at her computer and his ticket, typed something and faced him once again.

“I’m sorry, sir, but the board is correct. Here at Icarus Budgetary Space Flights we offer flights at a quarter of the price of other space liners by passing on savings to our customers. One of those savings is reduced fuel costs by taking advantage of optimal flight windows and I am afraid that your flight just isn’t going to make this next window due to spaceport congestion.”

“What!? And the next window isn’t for 83 days? I have a meeting in Prague in two weeks!”

“I am sorry, sir, but you booked a flight at our minimal fuel cost price. There is only a ten day window between arrival and departure and today is the last day in that window. I could book you on our premium flight that leaves tomorrow, though it would cost a little bit more.”

Kevin sighed, “Fine… how much?”

The woman checked her screen again, “An upgrade will cost 1,345 credits.”

“But that’s more than four times what I paid for the flight to begin with! I can’t afford that!”

The woman gave him a sympathetic smile, “I am sorry, sir, but there really is nothing else I could do. Can I give you a voucher for a free night in the spaceport hotel?”

Kevin cursed, violently.

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The Great Pervasor

Author : Phil Jacobsma

The magician known as the Great Pervasor finished his trick with a flourish. As the audience applauded, Anders sat nervously awaiting his cue. He had agreed to be part of the show because he needed the money. He had already missed two car payments, and the bank was threatening to repossess. The magician had offered him $200 to pretend to be an audience volunteer. It would make just one payment, but it would get them off his back for another month.

“For my next illusion, I require a volunteer”, declared the man on the stage. He searched the audience, his eyes finally alighting on Anders. “You, sir” he said, pointing his long black wand, “come down and be a part of the mystery!”

Anders stood, feigning reluctance as the audience applauded their approval. He made his way to the stage, turning to face the bright lights. He noticed he could barely see past the edge of the stage in the glare.

“Now, sir, do not be afraid”, said the Great Pervasor. “There is no danger. I am simply going to make you exit this universe for a short period of time.” He turned toward the audience, grinning. “But I promise I will bring you right back!” Anders heard the audience laughing. Let’s just get this over with, he thought.

The trick went just as Anders had rehearsed it that afternoon. He took a seat in a chair on the left side of the stage. An identical empty chair sat at the right side of the stage. When the magician raised his cloak, a jet of smoke rose from the floor and a trap door opened allowing Anders to drop below the stage. He was to reappear in a moment through another trap door on the other chair.

Anders dropped to the floor, and felt hands on his arms helping him up. He was about to offer his thanks when he gasped in surprise. Holding his arms were two small gray creatures with large black eyes. They appeared to be perfect cliché aliens. Anders wondered if these costumes were part of another of the magician’s tricks. The costumes were amazingly detailed. A third alien walked toward him, holding out a small silver device. Behind this alien, standing under the trap door to the other chair, was a man who looked exactly like Anders! He was even wearing the same clothing as Anders. Just before the charge from the alien weapon hit him, Anders saw his double smile at him and wink.

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Paranoia

Author : Michael “Freeman” Herbaugh

I know he’s been here. I’ve seen the signs and clues of his passing. It feels like ages since I started waiting for him to show himself. Heh – that’s almost funny, thinking about the relativity of time passing and all this time I’ve been working on Interspatial Time and Chronological Mechanics as they relate to the movement of a body. That is to say time travel.

I’ve been struggling since my doctorate to find the break through, that one formula that’s been on the tip of my tongue for these past few months but can’t seem to get out. I keep thinking that he will show up and give it to me, I know he will, it’s just a question of time.

But, I also think that maybe he is just watching me, amused at my plight of going through what he has surely gone through. He probably thinks “Why should I give it to him when I worked so hard to get it myself?” Or, perhaps, he is just waiting for the right moment that matches when he gave it to himself.

I don’t believe that you can really screw up the linear nature of time. If he were to give me the answer before today it would already have happened and I would remember so it’s got to be coming in the future. I know he’s watching, after all I would. Why won’t he just speak up already?

I guess I will just have to persevere in my research so that, when I am ready, I can become him.

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First Contact

Author : Patricia Stewart

“Commander’s Log, Hyper-light mission Alpha-one, Ship’s chronometer, Day 23,: Commander Adelmann reporting. The Tycho Brahe has completed another uneventful day. We are currently 7.1 light years from Earth. All systems are operating in the green. However, earlier today, during routine maintenance, Lieutenant DeHennis experienced a minor injury while attempting…”

Just then, the ship dropped out of warp, and all systems shut down. The entire ship was pitch-black. Even the independent emergency power did not function. However, there was a barely detectable blue haze visible outside the ship. That’s when Commander Adelmann noticed the menacing looking alien spacecraft floating 50 feet beyond the forward viewing ports. The alien ship launched a grappling cable that slammed into the hull. Almost instantly, the main computer came on-line. A few minutes later, a disembodied voice began to speak over the intercom. “Translating protocol initiated…click…please stand by…click…click…State your system of origin and destination.”

Under the circumstances, Commander Adelmann thought it was best to cooperate. “Uh, Earth. I mean Sol. We’re headed to Tau Ceti.”

“Do you know why your ship was deactivated?”

“Uh, because you wanted to make First Contact?”

“Negative. Your ship was flying at warp 1.1 in a non-designated area, your identification transponder is not functioning, and your warp field is not dampened…click…please stand by…click…click…Sir, Sol is in the Sirius Sector, but this ship is not registered. Please state your Sirius Department of Transportation Pilot Identification Number.”

“Identification Number? I don’t think I have one. This is the first manned mission outside of our solar system. I didn’t know…”

“Sir, are you saying that you are unaware that all warp corridors are either radial, at one degree intervals extending from the galactic black hole, or circumferential, at concentric intervals ten parsec apart? Are you also unaware that transponders are needed to identify and track ships in hyperspace?”

“Warp corridors? Transponders?”

“Sir, you cannot warp randomly around the galaxy. There are 14 quintillion spacecraft registered in this quadrant. If you don’t follow the designated corridors at the specified warp limits, you risk a collision with your fellow travelers, especially if you are not transmitting your spatial spherical coordinates. Surely sir,…click…You didn’t think you were the only one out here, did you?”

“Well…”

“In addition, sir…click…by warping through a non-designated area, you have caused damage to the Cetus amino-acid fields. I’m afraid…click…that your ship will have to be impounded. I will…click…activate you life support and communication systems. You will wait here until a tow-craft comes and takes you to Sirius Station. Your ship will be released when it is brought up to code, properly registered, and all fines and damages are paid. Your passengers can book transportation back to…click…Earth. However, you, sir, will have to be detained. The Magistrate…click…will want to talk with you. Since this is your species first offence, you will probably get…click…probation.”

“Probation? But…”

“I’m sorry, sir. If you have any…click…complaints, you’ll have to take it up with the Magistrate. In the future sir, please use only designated warp corridors, and…click…obey all warp limits…click…click…and sir…click…have a nice day…click.”

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