The Immortal

Author : Jonathan Wooldridge

I finally finished converting enough of the ore to fuel for the flight home. My knee had healed almost completely from the landing, and the patch in the tank looked solid.

And he was still there, watching and asking questions.

“So you just stop repairing yourself, and create a replacement?”

“Yep,” I replied, “Happens to all of us; we call it the cycle of life.”

We had been discussing species differences for the past half hour, ever since the translator came back online. Watching me use the med kit, and then repair the ship fascinated him. He was as curious about mortals as I was of him.

“How old are you?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” the translator said. “I’m reasonably sure that if I started, it was long before my memories—but then is that me? Do you remember climbing out of the water, or standing upright?”

“No, not even as legends,” I said, while running the pre-flight check. “It’s just the creative extrapolation of our science department. Best guess.”

“Yeah, that’s what I do: Guess.” His little floating sensor pod had followed me into the cabin, and watched me as I worked. “Have you made a replacement for yourself?”

“We call them children,” I said, beginning to look forward to my comfy stasis chamber, “and it’s a touchy subject. But yes, yes I have, and they are doing well on their own.”

“So how come you are still around?” He asked, so matter-of-factly from the translator. “That’s the touchy part,” I said to the nuisance of a translator, “because I would prefer to continue repairing, instead. How do you do it?”

“Is this where wars come from?” He pursued, in an odd leap of logic. “Possibly,” I said a bit too testily, as I walked back to the airlock with my voyeuristic envoy following, “but you haven’t answered my question.”

“I’ve seen your wounds heal; you already know how to repair.” He said dismissively, as though I had asked a silly question.

I opened the airlock to let my guest back out. “That doesn’t happen at a level that I am readily aware of.”

“What was your question?” He asked, as his little observing orb floated out the doorway and turned to watch me close the door.

“Ahh…Nevermind,” I said, realizing the answer would also be something I could not be readily aware of. “It was just an impulse really.” In some ways, he did seem rather smart.

“I hope you find what it is that you are looking for.” And even as I closed the hatch, I began to miss him.

“Thanks, maybe I’ll see you again some time.”

“I’ll always be here.”

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The Steps

Author : R. A. Jackson

Each step came slower now. Her back hunched so that the long grey strands of her hair trailed across the stairs as she climbed. Counting the painful strides one by one was the only way she kept up hope of reaching the end, surrounded as she was by the damp shroud of mist that obscured the mountainside. The slate passage was partly impeded by tendrils of vine that would curl across her path, smelling lush and heavy, calling her to surrender. Just a few more paces now…

She reached the landing at the mid-point of the staircase and saw the twin leaden benches that sat on either side of the platform. Allowing herself a brief rest on one of them, the woman couldn’t help but notice that as the sun began to penetrate the dense clouds, she felt her energy returning. She listened to a distant bird singing, and drank deeply of the cool, clean air.

Reaching a withered hand behind her, she found that the package she had so carefully wrapped was still secured to her back. With creaking joints she stood and resumed her climb.

After an indeterminable time, the climber passed through the threshold of clouds and mist, coming into the light. Tall evergreens concealed the stairway from view on either side, but gazing upward she could see the village gate ahead.

“You’ve made it!” a young man’s voice cried out from the guard post overlooking the staircase below. Immediately the gate began to swing open. The woman smiled as she walked through it, her long labours forgotten. “Did you succeed?” the young man asked as he came to meet her. Her smile turned sardonic. “Yes, of course. Do you think I’d come all this way if I hadn’t?”

Once they were settled and she was refreshed with food and drink, she produced the item for him and for those who had gathered to see what she had brought. It was well wrapped in reddish-brown cloths, and as she revealed the contents of the package, the tension in the room became palpable. It was a metal box that glowed faintly, and when opened, a thick stack of star charts was revealed. She removed the diagrams and laid them out for all to see.

“Well done! This is the last component!” the young man said, his expression full of triumph. He gathered up the box and its contents. “Prepare yourselves, for this is the last day that we will spend in this galaxy.” Looking at the old woman he said, “Now we can transport the village back to where we came from. I’m sure you’ve been looking forward to it for a long time.”

That evening the village began to radiate a pure white light, signaling the beginning of a new journey. The old woman shuffled back to the village gate. Sitting down at the entrance, gazing at the steps that disappeared beneath the clouds, she watched the planet she had lived on for sixty years fade away.

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She Just Can't Be Still!

Author : Kenneth R. Harrison

She just can’t be still!

Her long blond hair forever in her eyes. Hands up. Arch to the side and over. Whoops! She fell! Hands up. Arch to the side and over. There! She made it! Another cartwheel.

She just can’t be still!

Legs apart. Drop to the ground. The “splits” she has those down pat. Now she arches her back, hands over and behind her head. Down she goes! One leg up and then the other. Into a wobbly hand stand. Look out! Down she goes. Right on her rear! Up she jumps dusting her behind and into another cartwheel.

She just can’t be still!

Her slender body moves with child like grace that only a father could appreciate. She brushes strands of hair from her freckled face. Head down, hands forward into a tumble. Up again and into another split. Her face shining red, not even breathing hard. She runs and jumps into a forward tumble followed with yet another cartwheel this time with a cross over step.

She just can’t be still!

There she goes, back towards the floor into a crab walk. Her belly arched to the sky. Up again, legs apart and into another split. Too painful to watch! Jump and run, bending forward her hands touch the ground, only for the briefest moment. Heels over her head and then to the ground.

Up she jumps, hands held high, arch to the left…

An acrid smell of burnt plastic fills the air. He jumps up muttering to himself, “Not again! Always on that same maneuver.” So close to perfection!

“Jessica” looked every bit the seven year old, blond haired, brown eyed girl he had intended her to be. Once again he traced down the faulty circuit wafer and deftly pulled it, replacing it with a newer model. “There, maybe now you can continue.” He closed the access cover on her upper arm as he pulled down the sleeve of her pastel tunic. For the ten thousandth time he wondered if any sentient thought passed through her positronic brain. He shook his head as if to dislodge the silly thought from his mind. “She is just a machine!” He said to himself.

He had programmed “Jessica” to act as closely to his own daughter as possible. Fifteen years in the making and fifteen years since the advent of his loneliness. Fifteen years since he had felt his daughters still lifeless hand slip from his. Fifteen years since his vow to see her childish grace again. An eternity of pain! He would see her move again! Tears filled his eyes as he once again activated her program.

Hands held high, arch to the left, feet lifted high. Over and into another cartwheel. Turn, one hand up, one hand behind. Bend at the waist feet off the floor and over her head in one swift motion.

She just can’t be still!

Run, head down, arms extended, down and over into a split. Arms up and back, down to the ground, legs up, legs down, body up , body over… goto “tumble”… if arms down then head down else goto “fall”… if not “legs up” then… The program repeats, on and on. Can’t stop, not allowed. Positronic circuits forbid.

She just can’t be still!

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Come Home, Come Down

Author : James Smith

When Rocky got home that morning, Victoria was sitting on the couch, wings molting, a pale, fragile bird. Rocky took a look in Victoria’s eyes, took her EMT kit off her shoulder and popped it open on the floor. She pulled out a thin white tube and uncapped it. She took Victoria by one shoulder, pushed her back onto the cushions and quickly ran the uncapped tube along her roommate’s top lip.

Victoria gagged. “Jesus fucking Christ! What-“

Bolt upright, she looked around the apartment, eyes of a cornered cat, panting loud and heavy. Rocky wondered how many animal metaphors she’d run through before the end of the night.

“Tea,” Rocky said, walking to the kitchen. She punched a couple buttons on the maker, stuck a cup in it and returned to the couch.

“Lay back. Your last gene tweak is breaking down.”

Victoria sputtered stupidly and Rocky ignored her, pulling more work out of her kit.

“I don’t have any way to stop it degrading, but I can ease the pain a bit. Where’s your goddamn useless boyfriend?”

Victoria had to try a few times before her tongue slipped into the present. Rocky didn’t press. She was certain Nile wouldn’t be back tonight, or the night after. He’d turn up, like a bad song lyric, a month or year later, strung out himself, asking Victoria to take him back, telling her he didn’t do anything wrong, getting her hooked on black market gene tweaks wasn’t his idea, and who was she going to listen to, him, the guy that loved her, or that bitch, Rocky, who had to ruin everything because she couldn’t get a man of her own?

“Oww!” Rocky jabbed the hypo in a little harder than she had to. “Rocky… I…”

“Vic. You don’t die, I’ll take you to the hospital tomorrow. You can be my first call.”

Rocky brought her the tea, with two crushed redcaps in it, and made her finish that and a slice of dry bread. She wished she smoked, so she’d have something to do with her hands while Victoria struggled into a chemical sleep. The wings were pretty. The sun shone through them as they spasmed, dancers in water, turning brown and wearing through like melted film stock.

The baby she couldn’t save that night, the baby that had been dead before they’d even responded to the call, crawled from the kitchen to the bedroom, slow, too damn slow, and never once looked at her.

Rocky picked up the mug of tea, threw it against the wall, and went to sleep.

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Nano Nanny

Author : Charles Musser

Welcome to Nanotron Technologies! ®

You have launched our Mental Acuity Accelerator (MAA).

Your brain is now functioning more than two million times faster than normal. These words are scrolling across your line of vision, courtesy of thousands of nanobots implanted in your brain. Do not panic!

All movement will appear to have ceased. This is normal. Your heart and breathing seems to have stopped. You cannot move your body. This is nothing to worry about. They are side-effects of brain acceleration.

We are analyzing…wait…wait…

You are on your back, looking up. A steel rod, 1/2 inch in diameter and eight feet long is moving at 75 meters per second toward your left eye. Do not panic! This rod will pierce your pupil, enter your brain and obliterate all higher functions in your left hemisphere within .01 seconds, real-time.

Nanotron recommends using our Muscle Reflex Accelerator (MRA), at your earliest convenience, to move out of danger. If you wish to use MRA, please think “yes,” now.


We are sorry. You must first disengage MAA before engaging MRA. If you wish to disengage MAA, think “yes,” now.

Fuck, yes!

“Fuck” is not recognized.


We are sorry. The Nanobot Unit you purchased does not allow the MAA to disengage early. Our Nanobot Unit “Platinum” includes this feature. You must wait until MAA expires. MAA will expire in .02 seconds, real-time. Your corresponding RET (Relative Experienced Time) will be 24 years, 3 months, 13 days, 4 hours, and 36.478 seconds.

While you wait for MAA to disengage, we will play a selection of tunes from the Broadway musical, Brigadoon. You can purchase this CD online at

Thank you for using Nanotron Technologies®, a Subdivision of Rite-Mart International.

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Star 2080

Author : Terri Monture

The glare of the klieg lights blinded Godwin as he watched the limo pull up to the edge of the red carpet and he was dazzled as the digital camera flashes started blazing. He scanned the crowd eagerly, his heart pounding with excitement. The culmination of a lifetime’s ambition was upon him; he now had the perfect vehicle upon which to fulfill his greatest dreams.

“Omega! Omega!” the crowd was screaming as one long, elegant leg appeared from the plush depths of the hover-limo. The flashes reached a blinding crescendo; a uniformed attendant reached down and a diamond-crusted hand reached outward and a preternaturally beautiful woman stepped forward from the depths, her white, perfect smile nearly as brilliant as the lights being flashed upon her. She emerged from the vehicle like Botticelli’s Venus from the froth of the sea, her luscious blond locks flowing down her sinuous back, the delicate white sheath skimming over her incredible body like a translucent second skin.

Rosenberg leaned into Godwin. “So how much was your investment?” he asked carefully, in the studied tones of someone who could barely contain their envy.

Godwin watched Omega’s perfectly poised progress up the red carpet, her every movement flawless and graceful, as if every gene had prepared her for this moment – which indeed they had. “Ninety-two million dollars to date,” he answered absently. “From the initial design to the gene splicing, the ideal womb environment – we used a Swedish brood mother – to the final decanting. And of course the grooming, the drama education and the designer clothes. That’s how much she cost.”

“And how much do you anticipate the return?” Rosenberg was being droll, but Godwin didn’t care.

“Initial estimates put her at nearly ten billion revised dollars by the end of next year,” he replied, ignoring Rosenberg’s low whistle of disbelief. He was mesmerized by Omega’s glowing skin, her unearthly blue eyes, her million-megawatt smile. Even at this distance, a man could not take his eyes off her. She had been designed to attract the male gaze, designed to make women aspire to be her. “She’s worth every penny, don’t you think?”

There was the sudden sharp crack like a firecracker and a lethal red blossom appeared in the centre of Omega’s chest, a fountain of blood bursting from her shattered heart. She pitched headfirst onto the red carpet. Thunderous screaming burst from the crowd and Godwin’s breath stopped in his throat. “Abomination!” he heard one voice shriek above the crowd. “Abomination!”

Godwin was trying to reach Omega through the panicked crowd. He saw the white-robed figure holding the gun. “Born Humans Only,” the woman screamed. “Born Human! Not decanted!” Security guards wrestled her to the ground. “Born Humans Only!” she kept screaming until her voice was silenced.

By the time Godwin was able to breach the crowd all life had drained from Omega’s body and her blue eyes stared unseeingly into the sky. Beside him, Rosenberg shuddered sympathetically. “There goes your investment.”

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