Author : Curtis C. Chen

When Stacy was twelve, she celebrated her father’s thirty-third birthday.

It wasn’t actually his birthday. It was two weeks before his birthday, but he was leaving on a mission in five days.

Stacy thought the party was boring. There were a lot of grown-ups there, drinking smelly drinks that looked like soda but tasted bitter when she stole a sip from her father’s plastic cup. He was talking to another grown-up at the time and didn’t notice.

“It’s only sixteen light-years,” he was saying. “We’re not sure how hard we can push the stardrive, but we also need to balance the relativistic effects.”

Stacy wandered into the kitchen to find her mother. She was standing over the sink, alone.

“Mommy?” Stacy said, tugging at her skirt.

Stacy’s mother turned to look at her. Her eyes were red, and her cheeks were wet.

“Time for bed,” she said.

When Stacy was sixty-five, she celebrated her father’s fortieth birthday.

She barely recognized the man who embraced her as the waitress maneuvered her wheelchair into the restaurant.

“My little girl,” he said, his eyes glistening.

They brought a plate of food that she wasn’t allergic to. She toasted him with apple juice. She felt tired halfway through dinner, but pinched her arm under the table to keep herself awake.

She stayed until all the other guests had left. There weren’t many of them. The waitress brought Stacy a glass of warm milk, and a cup of coffee for her father. The coffee smelled good.

They talked for nearly an hour. He asked about Stacy’s mother, about what had happened to his family over the last half century, how they’d lived without him. Stacy’s mother had remarried when they thought her father’s ship had been lost, destroyed during their initial acceleration out of the solar system.

“She never stopped loving you,” Stacy told her father. She showed him the family photo that her mother had kept until she died, and which Stacy still carried in her purse. He cried quietly.

When the restaurant closed, Stacy’s father helped her into a waiting taxicab. He noticed her coughing and asked about her health.

“I’m old,” she said, forcing a smile. She didn’t want to tell him about the cancer.

Four days later, Stacy got a call from the agency. They had found her father dead in his apartment. He had overdosed on ibuprofen, washed down with a bottle of whiskey. They said he hadn’t felt any pain.

The note read: “No parent should outlive his child.”

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Author : Kat Rose

Battle raged on around him, the constant sounds of gunfire ringing in his programmed earlike audio receptors. He, however, was oblivious to anything but the almost lifelike pain near where his navel would be, where the bullet had pierced his stark green casing.

For the first time in his battery powered life, he wished himself dead, unable to function, in electronic terms. The war was one-sided, and he knew he was on the losing side. His opponents were hell bent on destroying every robot created.

Once, before the human race realized they had made themselves disposable, robots and humans had gotten along, but after the new leaders had been elected, the entire human race had found that they were no longer necessary in this world and had been opposed to that fact.

RC926’s pupils grew large as a sort of shocking blue fluid leaked from around the bullet hole. As he lay himself down, the robot gave one last humanlike sigh, almost with emotion. Almost.

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It Takes All Kinds

Author : Daniel Nugent

“And I expect you to show all your work on the problem sets. Points will be deducted!” shouted Professor Smith as his class began to shuffle out of the lecture hall. He began collecting his papers and tri-parencies from the holo-video podium.

A man in an immaculate gray suit politely held the door open for the exiting class before briskly descending the stairs to the floor of the amphitheater. “Doctor Smith, I presume?” he asked, extending his french-cuffed hand. The Doctor took the man’s hand. “I’m Claude Robinson, from Zeus BioTechnology. We spoke earlier.”

Smith’s hand lingered for a moment as he looked at the contracting agent. “You’re early Mr Robinson. No matter, I’m on my way to my office.”

As they exited the dimly lit corridor that led to the classroom and approached the enervator, Mr Robinson spoke, “Do you enjoy teaching, Doctor Smith? It doesn’t seem to fit a man of your nature, from what I know of you.”

“Enjoy it? Not at all. How would you like to deal with whining, snot nosed children, day in and day out. Barely a one is intelligent enough to put their pants on properly, let alone even begin to understand genetic molecular manipulation,” he said as they stepped on, ripples flowing across the transparent gravitational field where their feet fell. “Though… there are some certain benefits,” Smith’s mind lingering on a certain co-ed.

“I have to say, I didn’t expect they’d send a Cyborg out to meet me, considering the nature of my work.”

Claude idly watched waves flow from where his fingers touched the wall of the enervator, the setting sun casting royal purple on the cityscape below. “Hardly any intent, Doctor Smith. I simply happened to have a congenital and rather deadly disease as a child. Zeus BioTechnology only cares about their employees to the extent that they perform their jobs in a superior fashion.”

“Hmmph,” Smith replied, shifting his weight against the wall.

“Might I enquire as to how you were able to tell?”

“Usually all I need is to shake a man’s hand… but yours was perfect. I noticed an odd reflection in your eye. It appears they still haven’t gotten the biosilicon retinas right.”

The enervator stopped and Smith led the other man to his office door. They entered and the halogen lamps flickered on. Smith walked through the cramped office, placed his bag on a stack of books, and turned back to face Robinson who had started tapping a thin card. The lights flickered again and he placed the card in his pocket.

“No doubt Zeus BioTechnology has to have the latest in dampening technology,” said Smith.

“The very latest, Doctor Smith. Any listening devices will think that we are discussing licensing your RNA retrovirus engineering toolset.”

“Hah, one of my lesser discoveries, at best. Even that nitwit McCoy could have created it,” he said, turning to face his office window. “When Zeus brings my new work to the public, we’ll all be rich beyond our wildest dreams. Immortality won’t come che-ACK!”

Smith was cut off as Robinson jabbed a syringe into his neck.

“What are you doing you metal domed ninny?! You’ve killed me!”

“Hardly, Doctor Smith. I’ve simply given you a hybrid viral-nanite Alzheimer’s injection. You’ll be mostly fine, though I believe that the University will begin paying your pension a bit sooner than anticipated,” Robinson said, setting the Doctor down in his chair whereupon he slumped forward on the desk. He rifled through a few drawers, taking several files and a bottle of Whiskey.

Placing the amber liquor on the desk with the cap off, Robinson turned towards the door. “Why are they so naive? Don’t they understand that we’d only be interested if Immortality was consumable?” he remarked to no one. He tapped his breast pocket once and exited the room.

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Author : Angela N. Hunt

“We’re flying.”

His voice is soft. Satisfied.

Her smile never wavers, nor her posture or the angle of her head to the angle of her swan white neck. But the hand in his squeezes for a half-second. Her feet keep perfect time with his as they glide across the floor, bars of the Blue Danube Waltz carrying them as effortless as their feet.

They slide into a perfect pause.

“Like doves,” she says quietly.

And they’re off again, whirling around each other in a tighter orbit than any binary star.

* * *

Caspurtina, the Residence’s sorceress, turned away from watching the dancers with a satisfied nod. Looked like she’d have her Dancers for the Mystery after all. With a flick of her wrist, she shook out the fingers of one elegant, manicured hand over the surface of a nearby nanoparticle-board table, one of many surrounding the dance floor, each displaying a different fractal star pattern. Starlight fell in brilliant sparkles from her fingertips. Wouldn’t do to have too much residual enchantments mucking up her next working.

The sparkles played havoc with the nano-surface, setting up a new and exciting fractal pattern not in the designer’s specs that then proceeded to make the surface of the table break out in a swath of tiny pansies. She’d have to have someone clean that up.

She took in the group of somber suited investors.

“As you can see, we have all the elements that we require for our gala,” Caspurtina said.

“Will there be a need of additional funds?” the banker from Tokyo inquired.

Caspurtina grinned, pure charm.

“Only if you wish to flatter me,” she replied and he bowed in amused return.

With that, the investors dispersed, off to find other entertainments for the evening.

Caspurtina took one more look at her chosen Dancers, though they didn’t know it yet, taking in the white feathered skirt floating against the sharp black of tuxedo pants, feet flashing like wings.

Really. What better way to summon the ghosts of Fred and Ginger for a command performance?

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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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