Author : D.J. Rozell
Agent Jackson sat down across the table from the bio-hacker and started in before the guy had a chance to size him up, “We’re not here to collect evidence – we’ve got plenty of that – but to discuss motives. Clearly you are a genius.” The agent was priming the pump. “So, why use your considerable talents for this?”
“Well, as the media correctly surmised, my little experiment had a social agenda. I decided to give the world a nudge in the right direction.”
“That was some nudge,” Agent Jackson remained polite despite the annoying false modesty.
“True, my expectations have been exceeded.”
“Well, as you know, the virus copies the genetic material of an infected male to a subsequent infected male’s sperm, but only those with Y chromosomes. The result is male offspring with random paternal genetic origin, but female offspring that still bear the original parents’ genes. This manages to preserve both the traditional mate selection process and the basis for families while at the same time elevating the status of females in society. I’m pleased to see that nobody prefers male children anymore.”
“Except for families in isolationist compounds and the wealthy who can afford sorted in vitro fertilization.”
“One virus can’t fix every problem…”
“Yeah, back to the main point. Did you actually think you could end sexism with a viral infection?”
“End, no. Greatly diminish, yes.” The bio-hacker was getting more animated. “The current generation of children already accepts the new paradigm. Unless a vaccine is developed soon, motivation to return to the old ways will quickly fade.”
“What about men with genetic diseases who were ostracized or worse?”
The bio-hacker inspected the table, “Every technology has unintended consequences.”
“Unintended consequences?” said the speaker in the wall. Agent Williams was standing on the other side of the mirrored glass. His marriage had been part of the early collateral damage of the virus before scientists realized what was happening.
Agent Jackson segued, “Yes, one unintended consequence has been for our profession. Violence has emptied some countries of bioengineers, while others are stockpiling them like weapons. So, the real reason we have you here is to offer you a job.”
“Why?” The bio-hacker was faking surprise.
“Reformed bio-hackers are the best security specialists.”
“What if I say no?” Now he was trying to bargain.
“We go public with your identity. Long trial. Life in prison.” There was a long pause.
“OK, I’m in.”
“Good. The official story will be that the virus was created by a scientist that died three years ago. Case closed. Meanwhile, you create a treatment and vaccine.” The bio-hacker’s eyes narrowed. “Consider it the appropriate conclusion of your ‘experiment.’ A good scientist always cleans up when done. Right?”
The bio-hacker brightened and leaned in, “Actually, now that we’re colleagues, I think you’ll be more interested in what I’ve been working on since the first release. It’s a benign bacterium that will end religious conflict.”
“Very interesting. Excuse me for a moment.”
Agent Jackson and Williams had a brief discussion and then sent the bio-hacker home with a handshake and some paperwork to complete. Agent Williams made a phone call. Later that evening, the bio-hacker would be abducted by an isolationists group in black ninja-like biohazard suits. Agent Williams said it was apropos – vigilante justice for vigilante science. Meanwhile, Agent Jackson erased all records of the day. Then, both agents went home to enjoy their Father’s Day weekend.
Author : David Kavanaugh
“First day on the job?” asked the women in the lab coat, twirling a set of digikeys on one finger.
“Sure am. I’ve been on the waiting list for ages! It’s funny; there seem to be job openings here all the time, but I put in my application months ago and only just heard back.”
“Yes. Well, we go through a lot of interns.”
She turned and set off down the hallway, keys jingling.
“They quit or something?” asked the intern, jogging to keep up.
“The job certainly takes its toll. But it’s noble work, in my opinion.”
“I’m not worried. I’ve been obsessed with genetically modified creatures since I was a kid. My bedroom was covered in posters of all the best GMC’s: rhinodiles, land orcas, condorosaurs, super grizzlies. I’m psyched about working with them, even if it means cleaning up after them.”
“Oh, we’ll handle the clean up.”
She swiped a key at a set of steel doors which slid silently open. They walked through into a cavernous room, their footsteps echoing of the bare walls. In the center of the room stood a colossal cage constructed of hundreds of crisscross titanium beams. A bright orange DANGER sign was posted dead ahead.
“Oh. My. Freaking. God!” shouted the intern, eyes wide. “A living, breathing komodosaurus! I can’t believe I’m really looking at one. It’s incredible!”
A forked tongue hissed from between the massive jaws. The dark, stony eyes of the twenty-foot monster stared down through the cage bars, curious and cold.
“It’s huge! What do they like to eat, anyway?”
“Mostly underpaid, uninsured interns,” the woman answered wryly.
The intern’s eyes rolled. “Ha. Ha. Seriously.”
“Originally we gave them a variety of meats; venison and pork mostly. But one got loose at the company party last Christmas. Ate a jar of caviar and got all but addicted to the stuff. And that’s a not a joke.”
“So you actually have to feed it caviar now? Wow. Must be really expensive.”
“Oh, the bills were dreadful. But we found something else they like just as much, and the price is far more reasonable.”
The woman swiped a second key and, to the intern’s surprise, a doorway on the cage swung open. The beast blinked.
“Is that… safe?”
The woman shrugged. “All part of the job. Come closer.”
The intern smiled nervously and inched forward through the cage’s opening, heart racing.
“Whoa. I think it likes me. See the way it’s looking at me. I’m sure it likes me.”
In a single, fluid motion the beast’s scaly head darted downward, snatched the intern in its jaws, and tore the body from the ground. A moment later, with a little belch, the intern was gone. Only a sneaker remained, dangling from a shoelace looped around a yellow tooth.
The woman in the lab coat sighed, locked the cage, and spun her keys as she sauntered from the room.
“Thank god for interns.”
Author : Madison McSweeney
It was 9:30 AM on a Friday when the Martians landed on Dave McQuilty’s farm. The ship, which was more spherical than saucer-shaped, touched down in the midst of some cows. A long silver platform descended and a little grey man stepped out.
Dave waved. The little grey man made a strange hand gesture and said, “Take me to your leader.”
“What a marvellously egalitarian system the Martians must have!” Dave declared, as he set out to make the arrangements.
He started by calling the office of the Prime Minister, whose number was conveniently listed on the Parliamentary website, and requesting a meeting between himself, the Prime Minister, and a special foreign guest. A pleasant secretary told him that the Prime Minister was very busy, but should his schedule free up they would contact him.
Dave was not surprised by this. The Martian, however, did not understand. “How can this man be your leader if he refuses contact with his citizens?”
Dave shrugged. “I suppose, in a way, it increases his esteem. Perception of exclusivity and all that.”
Dave’s second step was to contact the Government House Leader, who, he figured, had an impressive enough title for the Martian’s purposes. The House Leader, however, was also very busy that day. Dave then tried to call his local Member of Parliament, the provincial Premier, his local Member of Provincial Parliament, and the Mayor. No luck.
He decided that the best he could do was take the Martian on a nice tour of Parliament Hill. So he and the Martian drove an hour to Ottawa and parked in an underground lot. Reading the list of hourly rates, Dave hoped the tour would be quick.
To partake in a public tour of Parliament, visitors must wait in line at a Service Canada building across the street from the Hill. It being a Friday, the building was packed with other tourists waiting for the same thing. Dave and the Martian settled into the back of the line.
After waiting forty-five minutes, Dave reconciled himself to the fact that they would not be getting a tour of the Hill any time soon. He pulled the Martian out of the line and the two walked back to the lot, where Dave paid his $30 parking fee and wondered why the alien could not have landed on the Hill itself and saved them both a lot of trouble.
“So, to summarize,” the Martian said, adjusting his seatbelt, “I travelled fifty-four-point-six million kilometers from the planet Mars on a diplomatic mission to make contact with the Leaders of Earth, and I cannot meet your Prime Minister, your Government House Leader, your Member of Parliament, your Premier, your Member of Provincial Parliament, or your Mayor. I cannot even set foot in your Parliament Building.”
“Listen here,” Dave snapped. “If you wanted any of these meetings you should have called ahead. It’s a Friday, for Pete’s sake. I’m doing the best I can.”
His options exhausted, Dave took the Martian to the Canadian War Museum. The Martian interpreted this as an aggressive act, and an invasion was launched.
Author : Trevor Doyle
Sex droids don’t do it for me, but I’ve never had a problem with clones.
My most recent Romeo, for instance. The last time I saw him, he was standing on my gold plated balcony, his back to the city that worships at my feet. He looked like a pop star in the clothes that I’d dressed him in.
It’s a thorny problem, of course, getting them to forget everything I’ve done for them without making them tame. The first one forgot too much; the second one, not enough. This one had found his footing somehow on his own.
Memory implants and hypnosis can only do so much, after all. Put a shirt on your clone’s back, and he resents it; teach him to be civil, and he becomes soft, a sorry putty you abhor. I’ve learned the hard way that virility and duplicity are inextricably linked; the noblest man alive will spin incredible yarns in obedience to his first master, that metamorphic creature that he keeps hidden in his pants.
This one was different though. His desire to please was genuine; he was gracious but never fawning, capable of maintaining his self-respect even though he had no place in the world aside from the one I’d made for him. And yet he wasn’t docile or subservient; he could be unpredictable, which I liked, and he was forceful when my mood called for it.
Only last week, the psychiatrists who’d supervised his training and conditioning told me that he’d passed his total personality test. We’d succeeded where others had failed, which meant that we had the complete package, a clone who would be the perfect companion for any woman who could afford him. They showed me the numbers, the graphs that always bore me, and assured me that I was going to be a thousand times wealthier than I already am. But I wasn’t convinced, not entirely. There was one more test he had to pass.
Because it isn’t enough for a man (or a clone) to say that he loves you, is it? This is a fundamental truth, and that’s why I had to ask that all important question while he was standing there on my balcony with the wind roiling his perfect hair.
“So you love me. What would you do to prove it?”
He nodded to show that he understood, and then he turned around. He swung one meaty thigh over the railing, then the other, and he looked at me one last time.
“This,” he said.
And he jumped.
I had to smile. I couldn’t help myself, because it was the ultimate answer, the only answer that could expel my final doubts.
So he was perfect, a little too perfect. But I’ve learned my lesson; true love is overrated anyway.
We’ll do better with Romeo-4.
Author : Jae Miles, Staff Writer
It’s another tediously quiet evening in Watchpost 113 at the western edge of the Sonoran Borderlands. Fred is making waffles while Adey idly flicks through the long-distance views. Fred glances round as Adey jerks upright in his chair, paging back to the previous view.
“What is that?” Adey points at the screen.
Fred sighs, moves the waffle pan to the cool plate and steps across to peer over Adey’s shoulder.
“Extreme buggy race. Looks like they’re really goin’ for it.”
Adey shakes his head: “Seen that before. This is one rooster-tail, straight for three miles, headed for Bessamy Ridge.”
“The Ridge just been finished. Thirty-foot high ‘impregnamesh’ topped with sprung razor wire, set on damn great H-beams backed by buttresses that are bedded fifteen feet back from the line. Whatever that is, it’ll turn off. But I still say it’s some desert dragster.”
Fred goes back to the waffles. Adey watches the rooster-tail of dust approach. As it gets nearer, he can see just how big it is.
“Freddy, don’t think this is a dragster.”
With a loud sigh, Fred puts the pan back onto the cool plate and rejoins Adey.
Squinting at the screen, his eyes widen.
“Damn me, that tail’s gotta be over a hunnerd feet high! Ade, git some infrared on this.”
The screen switches to show an ambient temperature nightscape, except for the blazing heat at the front of the approaching dust storm. Fred puzzles over the heated upper section of the dust cloud before noticing that the rooster-tail is hiding several hot objects.
“Ade, get Phoenix on the line. This ain’t no dragster.”
Adey presses the button. The screech and hiss of active jamming fills the room.
Adey beats Fred to the door. He grabs the handle and the booby trap delivers a jolt that lifts him from his feet and stops his heart. He drops with a grunt. Fred screams and dives under the nearest table.
The intruder removes his trap. As he exits the building, there’s a distant rumble of impact. With a smile that flashes white teeth against the camouflage paste covering his face, he sprints to his trials bike and is gone into the desert, his countermeasures drone wheeling above.
At the heart of that rumble, a 60-ton monster hybrid of snowplough and armoured loco hit the border wall at eighty miles-an-hour. The prow drove through, its flared trailing edges flinging the debris away and widening the gap.
Behind the colossal ram comes a pack of vehicles that trace their ancestry back to moonshine runners. They spray grit and flame as tuned power plants accelerate four- and six-wheel-drives. As they clear the dust cloud, countermeasures drones rise above each vehicle. Each pair heads for a destination known only to the driver. Rotors whine, countermeasures hum, off-road suspensions flex, and absorptive paint reflects nothing as they disappear into the night.
In a cloud of smoke and steam, the ram turns and rockets back across the border, off to disappear into its underground shed before the inevitable rabid response occurs.
Along the great wall, this scene is repeated over a dozen times. By dawn, enforcement efforts at many of the breaches are being hindered by the hundreds of people streaming through the gaps – going in both directions.
Author : M. Irene Hill
Today’s sunrise is a Chinese watercolor painting, with inky tree branches in the foreground of an ombre sky. Below a band of monochrome cloud, a thin line of cinnabar melts into pink chrysanthemum in rhythmic balance. I imagine that a bird’s eye view would bring harmony to the richness and texture of the landscape. On cue, a profusion of chickadees bursting from their nests can be heard as they cheer on the sun god.
Lacking feather and flight, I can only revere this daily miracle from the comfort of my favorite window seat. My roots have grown deep into the earth since the last time I punched through Earth’s exosphere. People had once called me Space Cowgirl. Now they just call me Marie – or Mommy.
I had played my role in shattering the metaphorical glass ceiling. The number of female space travelers has quadrupled since Cosmonaut Valentina did her first spacewalk so many moons ago. At age 39, I decided it was time to hang up my spacesuit and step aside to make room for my sister space walkers. Space had been like a cornucopia of my wildest dreams. I greedily plucked each asteroid harvesting mission offered to me, but then one day I realized I’d had my fill.
Seeing the orbital sunrise on Earth from a vantage point in space is truly breathtaking, but my perspective is now limited by earthly matters of hearth and home. There is always that transient desire to uproot and set sail on a sea of stars, and I’m not sure it will ever fade completely. But for these briefest moments while my children are soundly sleeping and my mouth is filled with the rich taste of coffee, when the sun god awakens from his slumber and stretches, I am content on this blue planet.
Sun god kisses my lips good morning; his kiss is a song written indelibly upon my heart. I taste its essence, and breathe its color. Its warmth seeds my soul. I am a poet, a painter, a philosopher, a star walker, and a mother – or as Carl Sagan would say, I am star stuff harvesting starlight.
I hear the faintest stirrings of my little star mites. Sigh. I check my solar panel battery indicators on the inside of my wrist: four bars. I stretch my eyelids open wider to harvest more starlight. Five bars – Houston, we are go for launch.
“Who wants blueberry pancakes for breakfast?”