Unjust

Author : Beck Dacus

A problem philosophers have had for a long time is the difference between consensus and truth. In a court, for example. One can present evidence, call witnesses, and use common sense to confirm the perpetrator of a crime. But they will never really know. There is no possible way to determine who is actually guilty– unless you have a time machine. Which Mallory Thurson happened to have.

When time travel was invented, it was thought that the possibilities would be endless. You could fix all the mistakes you or anyone else ever made. Then anti-paradox laws were put in place, and the possibilities were somewhat limited. Next, people moved on to research and tourism; definitively discovering what took place in the past and just seeing it for kicks. Finally, man discovered its usefulness in law. From this point on, time travelers would solve crimes by going back and filming them, but preserve anti-paradox laws by never interfering. It was hoped.

This case was personal to Mallory; it had happened right in her own neighborhood. She was frustrated that she herself couldn’t find the culprit, but then realized that she was in the perfect position for this– a Timeroller (camerapeople who film crimes). She reported to work immediately, donned the suit, and used it to go back three hours, 21 minutes and 11 seconds. It was here she learned that, despite all our efforts, there will never be true justice.

She arrived just in time to see a masked murderer barge in to a young man’s apartment. She filmed from a window as your typical exchange unfolded. The murderer threatened, th man cried, the killer gave a middle finger to any Timerollers that may be nearby. All that time, Mallory couldn’t shake the feeling that she knew that voice. Somehow, she thought she had heard it before, long ago. Finally, she realized that this man, Ronald Azermov, was the man that had gotten her involved in Timerolling.

This man had killed her father.

She remembered walking down the alleyway, when this man jumped her father and shot him to death. Then he found all the Timerollers that had been summoned to the scene, and shot each one in the face. She understood why there were so many– each one was there to witness how the previous one was killed. That was also why they never found out who he was. Why her dad’s death remained one of the only unsolved cases in the world.

In surprise, she dropped the camera. Thankfully, it didn’t attract attention. But now she couldn’t present the film to the court. Damn!

Suddenly a shot rang out, and the window smashed. Someone had tried to shoot her because she was a Timeroller. But they had missed… and shot the owner of the apartment. Her father’s killer was innocent.

But why should that stop her? It was her almost-assassin’s lucky day.

“Mallory?” asked the judge. “Where’s your camera?”

Huff, “your honor,” huff, “the perpetrator,” huff, “shot it.”

“But you know who they were?”

“Yes, sir. Ronald Azermov. The same man who shot my father.”

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Say Goodnight

Author : Angie Gibson

An old man noted Grain’s uniform, tugging his elbow. Grain turned to the whittled, pockmarked, and radiation burned face, nose like a pointed finger. “Get me on.”

“I can’t.”

A woman, starved, ragged, children like clinging tumors to her body. “Please, get me on.”

“I can’t.”

A tug to his sleeve. “Please, please get me on.” A man, not holding a baby or pushing forward a sickly wife, just a single, healthy, thirty five year old man. But it was the fear that gave Grain pause, so raw in this man’s eyes. He, above all these broken, dying people, understood death. It was like looking into a mirror.

“I-I’m sorry.” Grain gripped Thomas’s hand harder.

The ships at the end of the dock were blocked from the surging crowd by a gate reinforced by soldiers. Every few minutes a ship would blast into the sky and the chaos would slack as all the heads lifted to watch it go. Then, like a blink, the pushing and shouting would recommence.

Grain saw friends among these tired solders. He would join them soon, but first he had to put his son on that next ship.

Stepping to the gate, a young soldier with a bleached white left eyeball (tale-tell signs of the I-bac infection, this one got lucky) rushed towards him, but when he saw Grain’s uniform, several ranks above his, he snapped into a salute. Grain saluted distractedly back, hugging his son even closer with the other arm.

“Sergeant Major Frances M. Grain, my son is getting on that ship.” Grain didn’t look at the soldiers as he spoke, he pointed to the purring vessel.

“Do—I’m sorry, sir—but, do you have a ticket?”

“My son is getting on that ship.” Grain looked at the solder this time, and the solder quaked, wringing his rifle like a teddy bear.

“Yes, sir!” He pulled open the gate. Grain shouldered past him, getting ahead of the long line of ticket-wielders, moving in-between the two guards in charge of verifying tickets. They saluted Grain. Grain knelt in front of Thomas, ignoring the angry curses from the line.

“You must go.”

“I-I can’t leave you.”

“You will go.”

“But mama and Gracie.”

Tears like gritted sand filled his voice as he said, “You have to go.”

Thomas turned to the ship. He turned to the crowd. He turned back to his father. His son looked like Grain’s father, dark and deep, olden by wisdom, just a mini version of a man.

“They will die, all these people, will die.” There was matter-of-fact in Thomas’s voice.

“But you will live.”

Thomas nodded. He didn’t hug his father. He squeezed his hand. “Goodbye.”

“DON’T SAY GOODBYE!” The sudden anger filling his father frightened young Thomas. Grain shook him roughly. “Don’t say goodbye. Say…goodnight.”

Thomas didn’t understand, but the boy’s inherent wisdom took the wheel. “Goodnight.”

Grain nodded, hugged the boy. The child turned. Grain watched as he entered the ship. He watched as the solders sealed the door. He stood back and watched as the ship shot into the sky. His rank informed him that the vessel will move into outer orbit before blowing apart. But until that moment, Thomas, and every other passenger aboard, will enjoy chemical bliss. In their altered minds they will land on the Green Paradise. Time will be manipulated; his son will grow old in his mind. He will raise children. They will have children. They will be there when Thomas dies happy in his bed. He will never know he has only an hour to live.

“Goodnight,” Grain whispered.

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The Space In the Numbers

Author : Ray Burke

Maybe he was broken. It would certainly explain a lot. He always felt lost, hurt, angry even. It never mattered how many were around him, who he talked to, even when sleeping with them in the throes of romance. He just felt alone, detached, like none of it was real. He felt like he had woken from a dream, a dream where he could fly and go wherever he wanted yet on waking he was stuck, like he’d been clipped. He wondered at times do tamed birds that have been clipped look at their reflections and remember flying? Did it sadden them they couldn’t anymore? Were they tortured by this knowledge?

Always he felt a hunger to belong, he wanted to be with someone to escape, to feel that connection, that love, that interdependance. It all felt wrong to him, it was like a hollow life, a hollow world. He realized at an early age he felt different to everyone, no one seemed to be aware of the gap, the seperation. He was five when the world broke and the curtain dropped draining the magical shine from life.

Sitting watching people brought him some comfort though he never knew why exactly. To imagine their lives, to see their complexity from afar. He could sympathise, he had great empathy for them, going about their lives unaware, ignorance is bliss. That always made him smile. It explained perfectly why he was never comfortable. They all seemed so happy, the daily routine, family life, personal problems, relationships. He just couldn’t understand it all. Couldn’t they see they were wasting their lives? The nine to five rat race. Fritting away their energy, their talents and dreams, to make someone else’s life more comfortable.

He smiled as he felt him coming. The world seemed to slow down just for him, like their time was important, he could always smell his aftershave before he ever saw him. It was the one surprise he looked forward to in this seemingly endless term of detachment, the one thing that felt real. A hand squeezed his shoulder, “Good afternoon Kyo, how’re you today?” The cheeriness and optimism was almost infectious. Always he asked how he was doing, if he was ok. No one else seemed to care about him. He had only known Brian these last few years but he felt in him something that made all the pain recede, he felt something real, someone there behind the face.

***

Walking in Brian looked over the control room. He’d managed to slowly whittle his staff down to remain undetected. The main readout in his office still flashing red in warning beside the timer running on twenty six months and thirteen days. Everything seemed normal despite the error report compiling daily. Interface dilation was still on track hovering at seventeen hundred percent, response times were optimal, data exchange seemed to never deteriorate. He hadn’t dared shut the program down when the critical error occurred. Could he really have happened upon a virgin AI? Removing his lab coat he sat in the interface chair and reclined, adjusting the headset as he inserted the recording chip coded; Kryptic Estrangement Observation Program.

As the dilation effect wound down and the interface loaded in Brian materialized on a side street near a cafe. Was the program truly aware? Did it even know this environment wasn’t real? He could see the program avatar sitting watching people as it always did. He approached and squeezed its shoulder.

“Good afternoon Kyo, how are you today?”

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Start The Cycle

Author : Ryan D. Harris

“They’ll get what’s coming to them. Isn’t that right, dear?”

Dr. Charles Kilborne had his last remaining–and live–specimen in front of him. With his left gloved hand on his tweezers, his right hand took a syringe from a table littered with lifeless male suitors.

With his professional, steady grasp, Charles slowly guided the needle to his subject’s abdomen. The contents of the syringe emptied into what would be his magnum opus, the triumph of his life’s work.

He could hear the spliced melody of robins outside as he worked. They brought a faint joy to him as the damp light of dawn gave way the sun. The career virologist longed to return Earth back to her natural state.

“The human race is evil. You give our planet a…mortality it needs. However, we all need a bit of help now and then don’t we?”

Civilization, he decided, did not need nuclear war, grey goo, or an asteroid for cleansing. The goal would be achieved with subtlety and aforethought.

Excitement streamed through his body as he picked up the fifty-cent culturing cup and walked outside to his car.

Charles enjoyed the sunshine as he drove from his home in Thousand Oaks to Santa Monica. He knew tourism boomed at the Santa Monica Pier and it was the perfect place for his vector.

The beach and the pier teemed with activity. People walked, skated, and ran. Charles strolled to the pier, cup in hand. Amidst a crowd of beachgoers , he could hear his heart beating with anticipation. Hands shaking with adrenaline, Charles carefully unscrewed the lid but halted its complete removal. He drew a deep breath and let her out.

She would soon feed and lay her eggs as she chose someone as her prey–her host. Compound eyes and millions of years of instinct directed her efforts. A tiny proboscis would be enough to humble a species that felt foolishly superior.

Charles Kilborne drove away, dreaming of a simpler time and a carefree world.

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Extinction 74

Author : Jae Miles, Staff Writer

It sat there, yellow feline eyes glowing gently in a face that reminded me of the top of a burned rice pudding. Short, bald, muscular – if what moved under the garment was muscle – and completely at ease.

“Can you understand me, Evan?”

The voice was husky, comforting: grandfather telling a funny tale on an autumn eve comforting.

I nodded.

“Good. Now, are you ready to depart?”

I looked beyond it to where Alicia, the kids and the cat hung in the lounge air without visible reason. They seemed to be sleeping peacefully.

Licking my lips, I coughed to bring up a voice: “But what about our folks? The police? Government?”

The cat-gremlin-pudding shook its head: “This invitation is for you, and it has been extended to your immediate domestic unit as a courtesy. There is no time for you to include anyone or anything else, and your time is swiftly running out.”

“No. I mean warning the people. So they can prepare.”

The spines that lined his paw/claw nipped my chin: “One more time for the hard of believing: your planet has contained a dormant entity that was trapped during the creation of this solar system. That entity has now healed to a point where it is able to continue journeying. Which requires it to climb out of confinement, an act that will sunder this planet into at least two pieces. The resulting devastation will be inimical to every order of life above single-cell organisms. For most of them, it will be a quick end. For the unlucky ones, it will be a lingering death. Your species is predicted to be the seventy-fourth to expire. I am part of an evacuation initiative. We cannot rescue everything, so we have selected at random. You are now one of the few with the option to flee.”

I shook my head. Something was wrong. Something beyond the alien in my dining room…

“But –”

The paw/claw squeezed and tears ran down my cheeks.

“No ‘but’. You may accept this offer or face the end of your world, race and life.”

“We must be able to do –”

It dropped me. I wasn’t even aware it had lifted me. I heard my family hit the carpet.

Yellow eyes blinked and faded. The wide maw remained: “A brave decision. I do not understand it, but it was yours to make. Die gently.” The teeth faded out and Alicia screamed.

We were huddled on the lounge floor sobbing and shaking when events on the television caught our attention.

“We interrupt this program to go live to Yellowstone National Park.”

“This is Anton Fielder. I am coming to you live from the K-News 24 chopper, high above Yellowstone. As you can see, a massive disturbance is occurring. We are not sure what that object is, possibly some kind of superdense tornado effect, but it extends from the heart of the Yellowstone caldera up into the storm clouds. To give you an idea of its size, the peak between us and the phenomenon is Mount Washburn!”

I looked at the picture and saw the gargantuan tentacle that had erupted into the skies. As I watched, Mount Washburn seemed to leap toward the camera. The screen went black.

We hugged and cried as the room started to shake. I sobbed apologies and Alicia told me I had nothing to apologise for. I couldn’t articulate why.

That wrong feeling had not been the alien. It was like when birds sensed they needed to flee a cataclysm.

I had been too civilised to recognise my survival instinct.

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Space Slobs

Author : Thomas Tilton

“Stax, hull breach!” Wattler gurneyed from portside of the Excelsior, his plastoscreens ablaze, his catheter tube streaming a current of nervous yellow piss to the ship’s water purification system.

“I need refueling!” cried Stax–telepathically, of course. The slobs had not spoken more than a word aloud to each other since the start of their eighteen-year mission.

Stax gurneyed himself under the fuel disseminator, which resembled a late-twentieth-century soft serve ice cream machine. Out of its spout poured plentiful heapings of baconnaise, the Terrans’ most prized garnish.

“Ready!” thought-spoke Stax, savory baconnaise drizzling from his gaping unhinged maw and coating his black-bearded jowls, like the spent loveseed of some intergalactic lard pig.

There were no windows on the Excelsior and of course their assailants would not be visible even if there were–not even to the trained oculi of the slobs, whose eyes were digitally enhanced and coated to ensure maximum clarity and sharpness. Space battles were very long-distance affairs.

Wattler needlessly–they were telepaths, after all–brought Stax up to speed. “They’re firing in waves. Hull integrity compromised on the aft decks. The ship’s nanobots are compensating and rebuilding.”

“Check. Reverse thrusters. Strategized target selection, fire at will and random.” Stax directed his thought-commands at both Wattler and the ship’s computer, which was wired to both pilots’ brains via access ports in the slobs’ faceholes.

A quiet, soft, feminine voice stunned them into cerebral silence. “Stop, you foolish men!”

Their plastoscreens lit up white. The entire interface appeared blank and bleached. Then she appeared. Filling the screen, a beautiful hentai maiden with a shimmering blue dress, skin like creamy baconnaise, a short button nose almost like a pimple, and improbably wide, impossibly blue eyes.

Had the slobs breathed in any conventional sense of the word, those breaths would have been taken away.

“You … you call us men,” telesaid Stax.

“We have not been called that in some time,” telesaid Wattler.

“You are men,” said the hentai maiden, “though you may have forgotten. Once you were a proud, upright race. Now you have let the Terrans weaken and destroy you.

“I am Roog. I am a demigod. This is not what I look like. I take the form of whatever my spectators desire most. Yours is a lusty, hungry desire. But has that fiery thirst ever been truly quenched? Does the baconnaise sate?

“Have you ever drunk water from a spile of the spice trees on Yorn? Or fed the taloned squirrelcats on Betazus? When is the last time you felt the wind in your hair or the rains on your beard? Tell me, can a sedentary existence on a probe in deep space ev–”

The hentai beauty’s voice muted, then her head blew up.

“Insolent slander!”

“The baconnaise sates!”

The slobs had only feigned surprise at being called “men,” and they had not actually been listening to her diatribe. While the demigod spoke, they were working silently, telepathically, with the ship’s computer to create the biomechanical cocktail necessary to expel the intruding deity.

They would report Roog’s attempt at sabotage to their Terran benefactors. Now, they both needed refueling.

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