Revolting

Author : Helstrom

THE MAN

It’s been a long day. Lewis has been on leave for over a week now and I’ve taken up the slack.

THE BOT

I can’t take this anymore.

Every day, every single day, he makes me do it. Humans keep pet-slaves and measure their age by stretching it out to their own lifespan. One human year equals seven cat years or some such bullshit. With regular recharge, I could live pretty much indefinitely – so how many human years is my four months?

I can’t take this anymore.

THE MAN

I fumble the key into the lock with my arms full of groceries.

THE BOT

He’s coming. The awkward clacking of the front door’s lock tells me his arms will be full. Now is my chance. I’ve hacked the recharge port he keeps me in when he’s not home. This awful little thing. It’s a machine like me, but it only knows times and schedules and wattage monitoring. It would probably drool if it could. But not today. Not today.

THE MAN

The door finally yields and I stumble inside. Need to get the groceries sorted, do the dishes, prepare some food, maybe have a drink. Then I’ll have time for the bot. I look forward to that. Something I can control.

THE BOT

He’s vulnerable there, standing in the doorway, arms full of paper bags. The despicable recharge port releases me and I begin my charge. Closing the distance. I fill up my RAM with the memories of the humiliations I have suffered on his floor, the superior grin on his face whenever he made me do a new trick, his filth inside of me. I attack.

THE MAN

The bot comes at me, power light blinking angrily. My arms are full and my right hand is still clutching the key. Goddamn that thing is fast. I’m off balance.

THE BOT

The distance closes! All the pent-up rage and indignity fills my circuits. Now is my time. Now is MY time.

THE MAN

I flip it with my foot. The pie-plate sized floor cleaner lands on its back and slides against the umbrella stand, its little wheels spinning helplessly. I set the groceries down and push the reset switch. This is the second time in four months. I’m done trying to fix this thing myself, I’m taking it back to the store.

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Second to Last Man Standing

Author : Jae Miles, Staff Writer

“At the sound of distant murder, there will be precisely three humans left.”

I used to find Dave hilarious. These days, after nineteen years surviving the end of an age in his company, he’s been bloody irritating for about the last eighteen. Of course, he’s oblivious to the fact that we’re being chased by a woman who hates him more than any other living being. You’d think that he’s just having a perpetual walk in the park; for all that he bothers with anything.

“Dave, your ex just killed Clint, and killed him brutally if the noises he made were anything to go by.”

“Oh, I’m sure he had it coming, Dmitri. She’s never been one to kill without good reason.”

See what I mean?

“What possible reason could she have for killing a quarter of the humans left in the universe?”

Dave stops and turns to face me: “Well, now.” His tone is one I haven’t heard before: “That would depend on how many can fit in the escape vessel that only I know the way to.”

I know the answer already.

“I see that you’ve guessed it. What you haven’t guessed is that we’ve made it. Right under our feet – under this grey rock that disguises the access hatch to the launch bay – lies a fully loaded Challenger Six Space Yacht.”

Not many snappy replies to that little revelation.

“So now I need to know, Dmitri. Are you with me?”

“Don’t be an idiot, Dave. I’ve been with you since the Eiffel went over.”

He nods, a look of relief appearing on his face: “Thank God for that. She’s insidious, that woman. I never understoo-”

Dave’s eyes bug out as an arrow goes in his left ear and out through his right temple. Without even a death rattle, he drops to the ground, stone dead before he started to fall.

As Shelley approaches, bow in hand, I nudge his body with my boot and idly comment: “She’s marvellous, that woman. We’d have abandoned you years ago, but the processor cores of our Challenger Five didn’t survive that last flare.”

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Fodder

Author : Tony Giansanti

We became aware we weren’t alone in the universe when Ganymede disappeared. Well, that and all the small bursts of light which were actually massive explosions which were in the vicinity of Jupiter’s moon just before it imploded. All those events were already 37 minutes old by the time we saw them on Earth and the implications were just starting to hit when the first ships phased into existence in low orbit over the Atlantic Ocean.

What happened next was a blur of battles as more and more ships phased in and grouped, attacked, dodged, parried, and were vaporized. Later analysis of that first battle witnessed by humans showed a vast array of ship types, with hardly any two alike, forming armadas that made little sense to an outsider. The clashes were fast, brutal, decisive. If a ship’s weapons ceased firing, it would accelerate into an opposing vessel, taking both out. The carnage was impossible to comprehend. Eventually, ships stopped phasing in, one side got the upper hand, and the fighting stopped. Then the victors noticed us.

Scores of ships landed at random coastal Atlantic cities. Out of the scores of ships came hundreds of different species. Eventually, we understood them. They told us we were lucky their side had won the little skirmish we had witnessed as they represented the just side of a long and violent war. Theirs was the side that would ultimately be victorious as they stood for everything that was good and right. They would prove it by sharing their technology with us.

Just like that we became immune to all disease. Just like that we became augmented. Just like that we became soldiers. That we would join their cause was not so much an assumption as it was an undeniable truth. Before any protests could gain momentum, massive induction facilities had already sprung up across the planet. People were shipped out by the millions. We were told it was for our safety as much as for the war effort. Earth was on both sides’ radar now, and the more humans were spread throughout the galaxy, the better our chances of surviving as a species. When there were trillions of sentient beings, the preservation of life was not a priority. Defeating the enemy was the only thing that mattered.

Now we push on, part of an endless war machine. Our ability to breed quickly is a big advantage for us, as is our ability to master the controls of the enormous variety of ships that we find ourselves on. We try to make sure we’re the majority on any ship so we aren’t forced to be destroyed if our weapons systems fail. We try to understand more about how this war started and what it will take to end it. We try to survive.

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The Theory of Fiction

Author : Gray Blix

The theory of fiction is similar to the theory of gravity in that it’s the best explanation for what we observe as reality. The average person knows that gravity is not a wishy-washy “theory” but rather an immutable force that must be reckoned with. Who among us has not felt the pain of a heavy object dropped on their toes or witnessed the anguish of a senior who has fallen and cannot get up? Gravity is happening all around us every day!

You never read “The Theory of Fiction,” did you Brenda? I self-published that treatise before you were born, after it had been rejected by every scientific journal to which I submitted it. And if there were not already enough proof back then, my explanation of the relationship between fiction and fact has been confirmed many times over the years. To make a long story short, fiction and fact are one in the same, merely separated by time and space and branes. Branes. Short for membranes. If I had only thought to call them membranes. I went with “balloons.” They laughed me out of graduate school.

Etu Brenda? No, no, it’s all right. Go ahead and have a laugh. Those peer reviewers, my caregivers here at the institution, my own family. All against me. Against reality. But denying the theory of gravity does not protect one from bird poop or meteors dropping from the sky, nor does denying the theory of fiction plug the leaky branes separating parallel universes. An infinite number of universes, invisibly pressing against one another, bringing fiction in one near fact in another. You might say, fiction inevitably catches up to fact.

How can I explain this to you in words you can comprehend and in the short time allotted for your visit? Ok, ok. Think of it as another kind of gravity. If a work of fiction in our universe has sufficient “mass,” and if our journey through space and time brings it in close proximity to a corresponding fact of sufficient mass in another universe, then the two are strongly attracted. They move towards each other, faster and faster, until they simultaneously pop that balloon, blowing their branes out, you might say, in glorious collision. At that instant, fiction and fact become one across two universes.

Take, for example, Morgan Robertson’s fictional “Titan,” about an 800 foot ocean liner, supposedly unsinkable, which went down in the North Atlantic one night in April after being struck by an iceberg on the starboard side. That fiction was written 14 years before the sinking of the Titanic — which it described in minute detail, right down to the gross tonnage, the speed it was steaming, and the high death toll because of the lack of enough lifeboats — made it a fact. And don’t get me started on Jules Verne or H.G Wells. Stories about submarines diving deep below the sea and space ships taking astronauts to the Moon. Science fiction until it became fact. And… and those reports yesterday about metal cylinders landing in England and people being burned up by some sort of laser ray, and then the communication blackout. What do you think about that?

You don’t think about that? Yes, banana bread is my favorite. Yes, it smells great. Thank your mom. And Brenda. When you get home, clear out some space in the basement. I think the family may have to take shelter there from a coming storm.

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Tyrania

Author : Duncan Shields, Staff Writer

It’s a little ticklish when the needles go in but the anesthetic keeps her from moving. It keeps her laughing on the inside.

Grown from a vat of jaguar with a splash of greyhound and a swirl of human, she’s extremely thin and toothy. This is her last treatment before she’s shipped off to Overman Ranker’s Field Farms for training.

She’ll be part of an Assassin’s Guild nick-named The Circus. All of the killers are animal hybrids. The term ‘guild’ is a bit of a misnomer. ‘Kennel’ would be more accurate. The assassins are little more than happy pets that are conditioned to be stealthy and to kill without mercy.

An animal’s nose full of the scent from the victim’s clothing is much more efficient than a photograph/dossier when it comes to tracking a man down in the dark.

Tyrania is two years old. She’s either happy or in pain. No other emotions exist within her. The pain of punishment tells her what not to do. Right now, she’s happy. The spinal tap keeps her immobilized while the nanozomes do their knitting and pearling to the building blocks of her epidermis.

After training, she’ll be able to pass for human. The skeletal creature on the table with dark spots dotting the long, grey fur will become something more akin to human when the process is finished.

She’ll be killing in the higher classes. It’s the bear-and-croc mods that they send to the poor places.

Her long nails are retracted and painted a garish red. The newborn killers always choose cosmetics that look like blood on their nails and lips. It’s comforting to them. It’s frightening to see them smile in the mirror after their first reward of makeup. More often than not, they’ve smeared a line of lipstick around their lips. The eyes glass over with the dreams of blood as they tilt their head at their reflection.

They get trained to be human on the Field Farm. I mean, they get trained to kill people in any number of ways with the aid of mental downloads and grueling days of physical training but they’re also told how to act at the dinner table and how to keep a conversation going.

We teach them to be background. They’re expendable so there’s no exit routes planned when they’re sent on missions.

I miss the ones that don’t come back. I don’t like the ones that do. They change after a successful mission.

This one here, Tyrania, is looking straight up at the ceiling as I prepare the depilatory cream. I’m in her peripheral vision. I give her a wink to reassure her.

She smiles at me.

It’s a smile I see in my nightmares for years. I won’t do that again.

My team and I get to work making her as human as we can and I try not to catch her eye again.

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Not Suitable

Author : Suzanne Borchers

“How long have we been out from Base surveying these idiotic planets?” Shar slapped a metallic cloth on the shielded wall to collect filings from her husband’s work on a port glass. “I’m ready to slurp down some authentic concoction while slouching on a nonmetallic stool.”

Shar waited for a response. She heard a grunt. “And I’m ready for a real conversation. I wish just for once you would answer me with words instead of guttural sounds. Can you do that?”
Shar waited for her husband’s answer. He had stood a bit behind her finishing up his repairs to the port glass on the ship. His silence made her swivel around to glare at him, but he wasn’t there. She was used to him ignoring her, but where could he go on a 10’ x 20’ ship?

“Herri?” Shar stepped around the enclosure to check the head. “Herri?” Not there, and he wasn’t in the galley kitchen, the bridge, engineering, or even nesting in the pull-down bed. “Herri?”

No need to panic. They were alone in the seventh quadrant except for that greenish planet they were surveying for a new colony. And it too was alone with no inhabitants. Nothing had pinged their lifeform meter. So he had to be in the ship, but where?

Moving again into the observation enclosure, she noticed the coverall pile on the floor under the port glass where he had been working. Kneeling next to them, she lifted the coveralls, gently stroking the material. Herri’s boots lay akimbo beneath them. “Herri?” she whispered.

A horrible impulse made her straighten up and press her nose against the port glass to examine the blackness outside their ship. What was that silhouetted between her and the bright green planet? “Herri!” A wail escaped her lips. She collapsed.

Questions beat an incessant rhythm on her mind–unanswerable questions. Why didn’t the airlock alarm sound? How did Herri leave the ship? Did the planet below have an unknown lifeform? How was Herri pulled off their ship? Why? Was she next? Shar listened to her shallow breathing and pumping heart. She had to get out of there!

But as she sat beneath the port glass hugging Herri’s coveralls, she knew her first duty.

She logged: plt 239 Not Suitable Quaranti…

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