Guilt by Association (Youthful Indiscretion)

Author : Jinque

Eoin dropped his bag in the hallway, and turned into his living room. His computer was nowhere to be seen.

“Caprice, I’m home. Where are you?” Eoin’s computer poked her head over the top of his favourite chair.

“I’m right here, Master Eoin! Welcome home!”

Eoin smiled, and walked over, nudging Caprice out of his chair. “Thanks. Have you got those reports on the revolutionaries? I know we did some research…”

“I have all of them, Master Eoin.”

“Excellent. Now, you can read them for me while I think. This paper is due in two days, and it’s important; forty-five percent of my final grade!”

After a while, Caprice turned to him.

“Master Eoin, want to see something neat?”

“Sure. Whatcha got?”

“I found music you like!” On the screen in front of them, a playlist popped up, and a heavy metal song started playing . Seeing his reaction, Caprice clapped, and giggled. “I have more! See?” She pointed to the screen. Thousands and thousands of song titles began scrolling by, just a little too fast to read.

“There’s no way we can afford all that! We’ll have nothing left!” Eoin cried out.

“It was free, don’t worry!”

Eoin was pulling his hair out. His computer was a pirate.

“Caprice,” he muttered, “What else do you have in there?”

“Nothing, Master. I promise.” Caprice turned to the screen, disengaging the music library, and pulling up the report files again. “Let’s continue…”

Someone knocked at the door. Caprice unhooked herself from the plasma, and went to open it.

An explosion of shouting and black uniforms flooded the room. Caprice screamed, and as Eoin whipped around, he saw her being tackled to the floor by two officers. “Don’t stun her! She’s a computer!”

“We know!” The smaller officer barked. The two men on the floor wrestled with Caprice, and Eoin lunged.

“Don’t touch her!” A third officer approached him, and held up a clipboard with a central government seal on it. “Mr. Hayslip, Your TriTek personal assistant, model 119/b is being taken offline. Large illicit data transfers have been traced to her IP. As far as our techs can ascertain, she has illegally downloaded music, software, and tools related to the bypassing of program security measures.”

Eoin took one look at Caprice, who looked back at him, her face expressionless.

The officer took the top sheet from the clipboard and handed it to Eoin. “We hereby sentence your 119/b ‘Caprice’, to three months enforced downtime. My officers are inserting a device to prevent boot-up. Any attempt to remove it will permanently damage her hard drive. No data, apart from the illegal files will be lost. It’s all on the ticket.” He turned back to his comrades. “All done?”

“Yessir.” The larger of the pair on the floor reached up behind Caprice’s decorative headgear, and found her switch, which was located just behind her ear. “Shutting down…” Caprice stiffened, and her eyes dulled, still fixed on Eoin.

“Goodnight, Master…”

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Ghosts of Earth

Author : Curtis C. Chen

The first crystal fell on Los Angeles in the middle of rush hour, killing thirty-two people. Caltrans spent an hour trying to move the enormous mass before it drilled itself into the ground and disappeared.

Two hours later, another crystal splashed into the Pacific Ocean. The Navy sent a submarine to track it, but they couldn’t go deep enough. Three hours after that, another one hit the Pacific. Then a fourth crystal struck the ocean south of Japan, flooding the coast.

Someone noticed that all four impacts had occurred on the same line of latitude, proceeding west. Governments evacuated cities while the bombardment continued, every three hours, like clockwork: China, Iraq, Algeria, the Atlantic Ocean, South Carolina. Then the tenth crystal impacted off the coast of Mexico. They were moving south.

NASA triangulated the origin of the crystals to a point outside the Moon’s orbit. Observatories all over the planet turned their lenses that way, but saw nothing. The ship was too small to be visible at that range.

We had no vessels that could reach that far. All we could do was evacuate, and attempt to study the crystals, which we were so far unable to halt or slow as they burrowed underground.

Five days later, the last of the crystals fell into the Pacific, west of central Peru. There were now one hundred and eight crystals embedded deep in the Earth, arranged in a precise grid circling the equatorial region of our planet. The aliens had parked their ship in space and let Earth rotate each target into position for them.

Eight different research teams had crawled down the crystal tunnels. Two teams were broadcasting live video when the crystals began burning. Again, we could only watch, helpless.

The world burned for nearly a year. Most of the plant and animal life died within the first day. The crystals weren’t just raising the temperature– they were also causing chemical changes, using the planet as raw material to terraform itself.

The aliens waited a decade before landing, to let their new vegetation and prey animals grow. The few humans who had managed to survive, in Antarctica and other frozen places, were slowly suffocated by the toxic atmosphere. We mourned them, but only briefly. We still have work to do.

The crystal fire had killed our bodies, but freed our minds– some say souls, or spirits. We don’t entirely understand it, but we know that we’re still here. We can see everything. And we can do things.

We watched the aliens land, and sent scouts to verify that they couldn’t sense us. Creating six billion angry ghosts had not been part of their invasion plan.

They use electronics, just as we did, and we’ve found that our incorporeal forms can directly affect electrical systems. A million physicists, no longer restrained by language barriers, are devising a plan to sabotage whatever the aliens do next.

We’re betting that they won’t want to live on a haunted planet.

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Historical Writing

Author : David Zhou

“My card,” he said, bowing gracefully to the client from Tarqon, the fifth planet in the Tostis system out in the deep reaches of the Spiraling Galaxy.

“I want to thank you,” the client said. “Thank you for taking on this job. They said you were the only one who could — who would do it.”

“That I am, my friend. I’m a historical writer. I write history. And for this sum, I will write your history.”

The man handed his client a slip of paper with a number on it. It was not small.

“This sum is acceptable. Barely. How would you like payment?”

“Oh, I’ll take care of it,” said the man lightly. “I’ll take it out while I’m writing your history. You won’t even notice it’s not there. Because it won’t be there. You know. Causality and all that.”

The client nodded slowly. “So you have it? Our history? What we want?”

“Yes, yes. You want to win the Sixth War of Independence. You want to ensure that a Seventh cannot, and did not, happen. And as a personal favor, a freebie if you will, you will have married Willemena of Erustis in your thirtieth year.”

“Yes, that’s right. The outline we gave you has more detailed notes. The dates of events, the order we would like them in. And Willemena’s address at that point.”

“Got it.”

The man started to turn away. He stopped for a moment. “Don’t worry, it’ll be quick. You won’t even know it’s happening.”

“I hope so,” said the client.

“You can’t, really. Notice. It’s how it works. One moment Tarqon is suffering from a drought of freedom, and the next, Tarqon will be independent, and you’ll wake up with Willemena in your arms and by your side. Sides. However you people engage in such acts.”

The client smiled. “Good luck, then.”

The man grinned. And started towards the gateway.

“Um, one question.”

The man turned, eyebrows raised.

The client hesitated and then spoke. “With all of your writing, how do you know that you’ll still exist? I mean, what if you change yourself?”

The man laughed. And grinned again. “My friend, I don’t worry about that. I like what I do.”


“I have supreme confidence that whatever set of choices I have to make, I’ll make the ones that lead to historical writing.”

He turned and entered the gateway.

“Besides, I’m too good at this.”

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Flight Test

Author : James Mallek

It was with a running leap that he finally brought himself to do it. John hurled himself off the top of the eighty-story Hertz Building.

5 seconds of free fall before he righted himself, face down, parallel to the ground.

Terminal velocity achieved, no more acceleration. Immediately reversing his acceleration would splatter his guts against the inside of his suit. A twitch of his calf ignited the chemical rockets sticking out of his ankles. Horizontal velocity increasing, thus a complete increase of net velocity.

“Shut up Computer.”

The suits A.I. promptly stopped giving a narration of his actions.

Spreading his arms granted lift, and he swung gently upward between the towering skyscrapers. An optimal state of powered flight had been achieved.

“Damnit Computer I told you to shut it!”

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Once in a Lifetime

Author : Matt Brubeck

We’re in the Starbucks next to the club, hanging out after a show. Aaron looks up and gives a brief snort. “Check it out,” he says, nodding toward the door. I see a trio of young kids, studying the menu and trying to look cool. I recognize them from the crowd at the concert.

“Time travelers,” Aaron says through a mouthful of croissant. “New arrivals, I’m guessing.”

“What? I think they’re college students.”

“Look again.” Aaron’s eyes twitch toward the newcomers, then back to me. “Their clothes are totally ridiculous, like they were picked out of random fashion magazines from the last decade.”

“I thought they dressed like that because they’re hipsters,” I say, looking again at their off-brand sneakers and thrift-store sweatshirts.

“You know how you always see these kids in low-paying service jobs?” Aaron goes on. “Retail, food service. It’s because they don’t have time to learn the period knowledge they’d need for a trade or professional job. See, I’ve figured it out.” Aaron leans over the table, whispering. “Say you’re a rich kid from the future on wanderjahr. You’ve got a time machine, but what do you do with it? Great Moments In History aren’t going to impress your friends. But if you can see a classic band from the twenty-first century before they made it big?” Aaron raises his eyebrows syly. “Watch, I’m gonna go mess with them.”

Aaron washes his pastry down with a swig of coffee, then wanders over to talk to the trio. I can’t hear their replies, but Aaron’s voice carries across the room. “Weren’t you guys at the show? Oh yeah, I know… Did you see them play here last week? Oh man, it was probably their best set ever… Yeah, a real once in a lifetime thing… Yeah, cool… Hey, I gotta go.”

Back at our apartment, we unearth my camera and download the last month’s worth of photos onto Aaron’s laptop. Aaron flips through images until he finds what he’s looking for. “Got ’em,” he proclaims, handing me the computer. On the screen is a photograph from last month’s show. In the back of the club, next to the exit, a trio of hipsters stands in familiar outfits, holding paper cups marked with a distinctive green-and-black logo.

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