Veins of Nickel-Iron

Author: Anisha Narayan

Soaring, soaring through the sinuous labyrinth of taenite trails that twisted like a tangle of veins through the terrain of Erasmus, Myka and Ylla glided, smoothly and effortlessly. They hurtled along chrome-hued paths reflecting their hoverboards as mere blurs of color, carving through looming canyons enshrouded in shadow. Nimbly they weaved their way between rocky spires enveloped in a misty, pale pink fog, the softly approaching night sinking the binary suns, casting a magenta glow against the lands. As the suns disappeared into the horizon, the luminous magenta strip gradually grew thinner and thinner. Dusk on Erasmus gave way to a supernal indigo, lit by thousands upon thousands of stars scattered throughout the inky sky, reflections twinkling in the tributaries of taenite. Spiraling across the ground like silvery serpents, these nickel-iron deposits engraved mazes into Erasmus’ surface, along which hoverboarders could glide, taking advantage of the rich magnetic mineral sediments formed many millennia ago during the planetoid’s nascent stages.

As the trail curved sharply and plummeted down, down into one of the canyons, Myka bent her knees to brace herself before she rapidly plunged, careening ahead like a comet, and Ylla followed suit. A cluster of meteors briefly lit up the stratosphere as the pair ascended again, rising back out of the canyons toward the bejeweled sky. They had been on their boards for nearly an hour, until silhouettes of dune-shaped formations in the distance indicated their desired location, as they finally approached the vernal gallium seas.

The gallium bubbled up from its ore in pools during the high season, now resembling acres of flat, smooth mirrors at the foot of the dunes, still and completely unperturbed—until Myka spun to a halt, slammed off her hoverboard’s power, and jumped in. She submerged herself in the silver liquid, this far-heavier-than-water element which felt both strange and pleasant against one’s skin, and looked even stranger. After filling as many jars of gallium as she could carry for use in her semiconductors, Ylla now sat idly at the bank, dipping only her feet in. With its remarkably low melting point, the liquid metal could coat every inch of a person’s body, every eyelash on a young girl and every wrinkle on an old man, and she watched as Myka broke through the surface. Emerging from the pool, Myka climbed back onto the bank, a silver human phantom, shaking off the liquid metal in heavy mirrored droplets. They gathered and gathered and coalesced in beads that met along her body to form larger beads, converging into a puddle of liquid silver at her feet, traveling sluggishly down the bank to meld with the main pool once again. Here, it would continue to remain undisturbed until the low season, when the molten mirror would be slowly swallowed and re-absorbed back into the lands.

Simulated-Life during wartime

Author: Riley Meachem

When the Terrans had first set up camp on these plains, they’d massacred all the native animals, mostly for food, but also for convenience. It didn’t do to have cattle meandering around when you were trying to pull off tactical maneuvers. The corpses were long gone, but Max could still smell that rancid odor of pulverized meat, wafting over the flat and now desolate ground. He’d smelled worse–hell, he’d seen and done worse. But somehow this still bothered him.
From behind him, he heard the cries of intoxicated clones, the sounds of revelry and drunkenness. The relative victory in the town that day, and the influx of liquor it brought, had proved a cause enough for celebration. When times were this tough, almost anything was. They would probably expect him to take part in their inebriation and gambling. But, for whatever reason, Max had no desire to join them, not today. For the first time in weeks, he’d had a taste of conflict, of terror, of action. He was still coasting off of that high, or at least that was his thinking. Either way, liquor would be redundant and wasted on him.
“Hey! Max!” One of the other clones was calling for him. “Max, come over here!!” He would have to join them, or risk being seen as rude. That was not something he wanted. Hs life lay squarely in the hands of these men, and he often felt as though they weren’t very fond of him. He had no desire to make their distaste for him and his pointed complaints any more pronounced.
He turned around, only to visibly wince; the pain in his foot was bothering him again. It was his boots, he was certain. They were cheaply made, with no support on the soles. Plus he’d had these the whole campaign, and should probably have tossed them long ago.
Grimacing, he walked the relatively short distance to the camp, trying to keep his foot in a semi-comfortable position. “Yeah?”
“Max!” Huxley, the corporal, shouted again. “Nate wants you to front him forty units for the game!”
“I’ll pay you back!” Nate added, anxiously. Max knew this was almost certainly a lie; people made all sorts of bets when they were sure they were about to die, and would never have to pay the consequences. He also knew that this was the cost of friendship, and that forty credits was a relatively low price to pay in order to secure Nate’s support, during and outside of battle. Without complaint, he reached into the pocket of his fatigues, and unrolled 4 ten-scripp notes, which he then passed to Nate. The Gaudy gambler accepted them. “Thanks Max. Like I said, I’ll…”
“Don’t mention it.” Max sat down and languidly flattened himself against a nearby rock. Now that he was near the fire, it would be odd for him to leave.
He remembered he still had a few ounces of regulation Cannabis on his person– it was a strain grown by the military to serve as an anti-apoplectic and anti-depressant. He didn’t smoke much, but figured he might as well, given that he’d already staked Nate in a round of cards he was sure to lose.He had no desire to gamble, and it would look odd for him not to indulge in some sort of vice that the others were partaking of reflexively. He took out a sheet of rolling paper, then removed a dimebag from his coat pocket, and tapped some green leaves into the palm of his hand. No one was watching him as he slowly rolled everything together. They were all focused on the game. There always seemed to be some game, or task, or mission, or something, which kept all of their minds firmly elsewhere. It bothered Max, though he couldn’t really say why. It just did. They ought to be able to have nothing to focus on, though he wasn’t sure why he felt that way.
He took a long puff from the cigarette; it tasted like the smell of cat litter and swamp water. He held it in his lungs, then huffed it out, coughing.
“Do you guys hate these fucking boots? Or is it just me?” He wheezed, to nobody in particular.
“What’s to hate about them?” Murphy asked.
“Don’t they… I dunno, my feet always end up sore as shit when I walk in these. mine are goddamn decimated, too, from all this marching.”
“Those boots were ordered for us by Celestials, Max.” Nate answered, dryly. “It’s gotta have a reason if it came from that high.”
“Max would know. He is the highest of the high,” someone else answered, and there was a burst of chuckles from somewhere.
“It’s your fault for not taking better care of your equipment, Max. Carelessness is repaid with cramps,” Nate finished, ignoring this remark.
“Fuck you. I just gave you forty credits,” Max took another puff of the cigarette.
“I’m just saying,” Nate shrugged matter-of-factly. “And you didn’t give me the money. You lent it. I’m going to pay you back.”
“Sure,” Max snorted, before laying back and staring up at the sky. There were so many stars up there, his mind whispered to him. Probably millions. He wondered what they were like. If they would notice a clone like him, if he came there. If they would revere him, or be terrified by this simian stranger. He wondered if he would ever see terra. He wondered what he would do when he got there. There probably wouldn’t be much call for soldiers. There weren’t gonna be any more wars after this one, so they said.
Somewhere off in the distance, there was the sudden sporadic burst of automatic rifle fire. Everyone suddenly tensed up, their weapons at hand. Another loud crack, a scream, a final bang. Then silence.
They sat their, staring off in the dark at imaginary Jovians for nigh on three minutes.
“Like I was saying though, these have such tight toes. if we have to walk through marshes again, I’ll probably get trench foot,” Max added. Nobody replied to him this time. The game gradually resumed

I Begin to Dream

Author: Evan MacKay

I lower myself into the pod slowly, feeling the cool nutrient gelatin cover my skin. A shiver ripples across me, causing hairs to stand on edge before they are submerged. My legs go first, then my sex, then my torso. Finally, I come to my head. I take a deep breath, knowing I don’t need to, but the gelatin looks too much like water for me to overcome the impulse. My head goes under in a quick splash, and I open my eyes as I sink down to the foam bed, that gently conforms to my body. I can feel myself running out of air. My heart pounds in my chest.

“Breathe,” a doctor from outside the pod says into his microphone.

I shake my head, still unwilling to release my oxygen.

“Breathe,” the doctor says again, and I feel a jolt from the cord connected to my chest. I release the air in shock and breathe in the gelatin. It is tasteless and fills my lungs. It is a strange feeling, not having to breathe. I won’t have to eat either, or piss, or shit. The gelatin will provide all the nutrients I need while I sleep. One hundred percent efficient. All I have to do is dream.

I can see the doctors moving above, they’re talking to each other. Their voices are distant, muffled. A gloved hand reaches down into the pod and begins attaching monitors, which pull at my skin uncomfortably. A helmet extends behind me, and I am instructed to slip it on. It covers my head and eyes so all I see is blackness. I feel little pinpricks in the back of my mind. Little bursts of color that tickle my thoughts. That would be the neural transmitter syncing up with my brain waves.

The doctor’s voice comes through the microphone again. “Are you all set Mr. Uthman?”

I nod my head and give a thumbs up. This is it, I’m finally doing it.

“Alright. Beginning neural transmitting. Have a good sleep, Mr. Uthman.”

I feel more pinpricks in the back of my mind. Excitement mixes with my apprehension, a nervous desire for what comes next. I was never much in life. I’d tried to be a writer, but that never panned out. Neither did my marriage. But now I was about to become something much greater.

A particularly strong pinprick hits me and my whole body convulses momentarily.

The world begins to fade, and I can feel the machine reading my thoughts and transmitting them. Soon I will begin to dream. I will dream all the stories I can imagine, all the stories I wasn’t skilled enough to write. They will be transmitted to the processor which will make them edible. Soon people will eat the dreams I produce. Soon people will live them, as perfectly as if they were happening in real life. I have become the ultimate storyteller. I shudder again, as everything fades into blackness. And I begin to dream.

A Broken Arm in the Future

Author: Shannon O’Connor

I broke my arm, and I’m devastated. I can’t use a computer and do my work, and it gets in the way of my life. I’m a resident in Cardiology at a big hospital, and I think this might hurt my career.
There’s no reason we should depend on computers so much. Now, with voice-activated devices like Alexa and Siri, we shouldn’t have to suffer and not be able to use technology if we’re injured. I can’t do anything, and I am going batty.
I think of science fiction shows, like Star Trek. Yes, they have to touch the computer to navigate the ship, but in order to do anything else, the person just says, “Computer,” and it happens. The captain hardly has to touch anything. Why can’t I live in that world?
I have a painting of planets that I inherited from my great uncle, and I stare at it sometimes, and it soothes me. The painting has an indigo sky, and the planets are purple and green, and pink. I want to live in the world of the painting, where I don’t have to touch a computer.
I close my eyes. I open them, and I am on a ship like in Star Trek. My arm is in a sling.
“Doctor, why don’t you take yourself to sickbay, and fix your arm,” the captain says. He is different from Captain Picard; he has dark hair and blue eyes.
“But how did I get here?” I ask.
“Never mind that, carry on,” he says, sitting in his chair.
I look at the other people on the bridge. A woman sits in the chair next to the captain, and a green alien with bulging eyes sits behind them. I go through the doors to try to get to sickbay.
I see a man in the elevator wearing a gray helmet and matching suit.
“Where are we?” I ask him.
“We’re in the Delta Quadrant,” he says. “It’s very exciting.”
“I’m the doctor here, right?” I ask.
“Hey doc, are you okay?” he says.
“I broke my arm, but I don’t know how it happened.”
“We’re always running into anomalies around here. It’s typical. But you can take care of it.”
“I think it’s great what we’re doing.”
“What are we doing?”
“We’re exploring the galaxy, finding new worlds, doing things nobody has done before!”
“But isn’t that what we always do?”
The elevator stops.
“This is sickbay.”
“Thank you. I’ll get off here.”
I go to sickbay and find the right device to fix my arm. I wave it around and wiggle my fingers. Medicine in the future!
I sit down on the chair in the office and look at my hand.
“Is there anything you need?” a man asks me.
“No, I have everything.”
He leaves, and I close my eyes at my desk. I can feel the ship moving through space at warp speed. I don’t want to leave.
The moving stops. I smell a familiar smell, grilled chicken and asparagus, dinner, cooked by my boyfriend.
I open my eyes. I’m not in space anymore. I move my arm. It’s not broken.
How am I going to explain this? I can’t say anything, or they’ll think I’m crazy. Maybe nobody will notice.
I look at the painting of the planets. I flex my arm.
I was in space. Now my arm is better. And I’m not telling anyone how it happened.


Author: David Sharp

Neon lights the darkness in sharp angles. I lean down onto the cyber-surgical bench, its faux leather creases and cools my bare skin. I feel exposed and vulnerable. Is this what I really want or did I let him talk me into it in a moment of weakness? I twist on the leather, smashing my sex down. A door slides open in the dark. I see him, muscular arms and chest exposed from his jumper overalls. Max never wears the full badge uniform. His eyes are covered in googles as his hand approaches with the electronic gun. I have tattoos and cyberware to enhance stamina and sight, but this is a first—this ink is intimate. Max leans in, warm breath on my back. The gun swivels and changes as its parts move into sync. I feel gooseflesh rise on my naked flesh. It is too late to turn back. Max grunts as he connects the device to himself, his blood is the ink. I tense, forcing myself to exhale. The needle point hovers.

“Are you ready Edo?” Max says.

“I am scared,” I say.

“You must be sure, no regrets,” Max says.

I feel his hand on my back and give in. “I am sure.”

“Then we shall be one.” Max switches on the gun.

The pain is sublime. I arch my body as the ink stitches into a dragon pattern on my back, imprinting his DNA into me. I feel waves of emotion, not my own. Memories flow through me of fights and wars and secret barrack tyrsts. Hate, love, pain, lust, despair, and ectasy flow in a torrent. I see Max’s mouth widen and know he is experiencing my past too. Joined on a cellular level, we no longer are Max and Edo but someone new.


Author: David Henson

As I’m looking for cheddar, I notice a Chamenileon drop a dozen eggs to the floor. Sobbing and turning blue, he puts the yolk-dripping carton in his cart and heads for the front of the store. I haven’t liked nor trusted the Chamenileons since we let them take refuge here, but this one weeping and bluing over broken eggs intrigues me. Learning about him seems more interesting than continuing my search for extra-sharp. No grilled cheese for me for supper.

I wait by the exit as the fellow, glowing red, apologizes to the cashier for breaking the eggs and insists on paying for them. I trail him outside, note what kind of car he gets into, then hurry to my own on the other side of the parking lot. I fear I’ve lost him till I see his SUV pulling onto the street. I step on it then ease off when I’m a couple lengths behind.

I almost lose him but for sneaking through a crack between yellow and red. When he enters a driveway, I note the house number and street then go home.

Returning the next day, I park a block or so away and walk to his house, which is painted the mandatory black and white to denote its Chamenileon occupancy. I see he’s having a garage sale. I linger in front of his house as if I’m looking over the merchandise. There are boxes of women’s shoes, and racks with hanging dresses and tops.

As I’m standing there, the guy comes out of the garage with slacks draped over his arm. As he crams them onto one of the racks, he glows blue again. When he sees me, his blue tinges maroon. He asks if I’m interested in buying something.

I’m not sure what to say — I followed you yesterday, but I’m not a stalker even though I’m here at your house today? — so I go to one of the racks and hold up a blouse. This isn’t easy for me as I can’t remember the last time I’ve had a personal encounter with a Chamenileon.

“It was my wife’s,” he says. “She … passed away a few weeks ago. I couldn’t bear seeing her clothes every time I go into our closet.” He’s almost indigo.

When he starts to apologize for going on to a stranger, I can’t help but hold out my hand and introduce myself. Never thought I’d shake with a Chamenileon. Whatever the color for surprise, I’d be turning it now if I were one of them. He says his name is Stanley-eon, adding the required suffix to his name. We chat awhile. I end up buying a blouse that I drop off at a charity. I don’t mention where it came from.

Back home I realize I haven’t eaten. I do that a lot these days. I crack a couple eggs into the skillet. As grease spatters, I think about the Chamenileon. Maybe I was drawn to him because at some level I sensed we’re both trying to find our way after our worlds have been turned upside down. His in more ways than one.

I start to flip the eggs over easy but in my mind hear my wife’s voice saying “You know you can get salmonella from runny eggs.” I turn the spatula edge-wise and break the yolks.

I’m having friends over to watch the game tomorrow. They’re a good group. I wonder how they’d feel if I invited Stanley-eon? Stanley.