Author: Greg Roensch

The transport came in for a bumpy landing on Hos as the twin moons rose on the horizon. A medical technician by trade, Rael-6 had known this journey would come one day, though he worked hard to put it off. “It’s just normal aches and pains,” he’d say to anyone who asked about his condition. But those aches and pains had become worse, and, after a long consultation with Dr. Boethius, Rael-6 was forced to book his flight to the hospice planet.

“Seven hundred and fifty years is a good life,” the admitting nurse remarked while checking his vital signs.

“Seven hundred and fifty-three to be exact,” Rael-6 replied.

“A good, long life,” the nurse said and smiled.

Rael-6 was soon sleeping and didn’t stir until hearing a familiar voice whisper his name.

“Good morning,” said Dr. Boethius. “How do you feel?”

“Old,” Rael-6 answered. “How much more time do I have?”

“It’s hard to say,” the doctor answered. “We don’t have a blueprint for these things.”

“I see.” Rael-6 settled back in his bed.

“Can I get you anything?” the doctor asked.

“No, thank you, doctor. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see what happens next.”

“That’s the best approach.” Dr. Boethius patted Rael-6’s shoulder. “Don’t hesitate to request more Doxa if you need it.”


When Dr. Boethius returned three days later, Rael-6 was noticeably weaker. His skin was drawn tight over his entire body. And, as expected, there were large gashes on his torso.

“It won’t be long now,” the doctor said and administered a heavy dose of painkiller.

Rael-6 shut his eyes, a smile forming on his cracked lips.

Later that night, as Dr. Boethius was catching up on paperwork, a nurse hurried into his office. “It’s Rael-6,” she said. “It’s time.”

“Keep him sedated,” the doctor ordered. “I’ll be there in a few minutes.”

“Yes, sir.” The nurse telepathically administered more Doxa.

Rael-6 felt a warmth in his veins and was soon dreaming about being back home at his dining room table, sipping spice tea, and telling the doctor about a child he’d fathered while stationed on a mining ship in the Quadrillion galaxy.

“I begged her to stay with me,” Rael-6 explained, “but she was committed to her career in deep space. I found out later that she and the child died in the Second Great Mining War.”

“I’m sorry for your loss,” the doctor said.

“I wouldn’t have to do this alone if they had come with me.” Rael-6 wiped a tear from his cheek.

“You’re not alone,” the doctor replied.

Rael-6 never woke from the dream. The hospice staff made sure of that as his tight, yellow skin, now covered in gashes, began to fall to the floor.

“Keep him fully sedated,” Dr. Boethius ordered and peeled away a layer of skin.

A moan from the patient caused the doctor to glare at the nurse. “Fully sedated, I said.”

“Yes, sir.”

Rael-6 didn’t make another sound as the doctor tore away more skin.

Ten days later, Dr. Boethius returned to find a new, young patient sitting up in bed.

“How do you feel?” the doctor asked.

“Like a million Napanthian crystals,” answered the patient. “To tell you the truth, I’m not sure why I’m here.”

“Just routine maintenance,” Dr. Boethius assured him.

All is in order now, thought the doctor. Rael-6 is gone. In his place lay Rael-7, a fully rejuvenated Class-3Z model ready for deployment. This shell should last another 753 years, the doctor noted before prodding the patient’s skin and checking his vitals one last time.

Zayla Floating Forward

Author: Lily Shen

Zayla lies down in bed beneath her blankets. Her plush down comforter feels like a warm bath. She listens to the soothing voice on her cell phone, guiding her meditation.

The soft, furry darkness envelops her like a cocoon.

Just let go, Zayla says to herself as she breathes in, and tries to silence her thoughts. Her judgments of each moment slip through her fingers. She imagines a warm, yellow healing light around her, as comforting as a feathery blanket.

Suddenly, Zayla is floating in utero, drifting inside her oceanic sac. She stares at her pink, translucent hands. They have not yet been wounded with purple bruises or bled with smarting, red cuts. Zayla has not yet laughed or cried.

Zayla drowns deeper and deeper until she opens her eyes again. She looks down at her hands, and they look as if they have been dipped in silver. Yet she can flex her fingers easily. The mirror-like gloves on her hands are light and yielding as a whisper. Zayla’s reflection on the back of her hand gazes back at her. She has a smooth, dusky-skinned face and tawny, orange eyes with velvety, dark lashes. Zayla smiles at herself, pleased with her face. Her hair is wrapped in a gold turban, which makes her orange eyes even more fiery. Zayla is wearing a thin white tunic that reaches the floor. She lifts up the hem of the tunic to reveal silvery, reflective boots. She saunters over the soft, baby blue carpet and opens a door. Moss green rocks fill the landscape, and she smells a burning stench. Zayla slams the door shut.

Where is everyone? Zayla pads down the carpeted stairs. There is a room full of people wearing gold turbans and white tunics like herself. They are sitting in rows of silver chairs with their eyes closed. There is no urgency to go anywhere, and not a computer or cell phone in sight. Perhaps the brain and technology have melded into one. Zayla cannot tell if they are sleeping or being endlessly entertained.

She opens her mouth to speak.

“What is today’s date?”

Slowly, a bearded man turns his head and looks at her with sad, purple eyes. Suddenly, December 3, 2205, flashes before her face, and then disappears.

Today is the day, not tomorrow! I must find David and warn him to leave before this pod is invaded, Zayla tells herself.

She looks frantically at the rows of drowsy faces. Darting around the room, Zayla finally sees David’s slumped face in the back row. She shakes him awake and points at the door. He stands up from his seat.

The room goes dark, and a tornado swirls around Zayla. Her body is twisting around and around with nothing to grasp for safety. She braces for a sickening painful impact and then dark oblivion. When she crashes through a wall, she screams.


Zayla slowly opens her eyes. She is back on her bed lying down. Turning her head on the pillow, Zayla spots her cell phone on the table next to her. Squeezing her eyes shut, she takes several deep breaths, trying to slow her hammering heart.

“David, I hope you had enough time,” rasps Zayla.

She peers at the glimmering screen of her cell phone and reaches for it.


Author: Leo James Topp

Late night, deep in the Volkov Tower data-centre. I stand at one of the consoles, tapping furiously at the interface, hard drive’s smooth black casing jacked into the terminal.
Alex is taking cover behind a server bank, aiming the carbine down a row of blinking cabinets, blue LEDs the room’s only illumination.
The download 90% complete. 91%.
“Aral!” I look around and the doorway is occupied. A skinny middle-aged security guard, bored middle-of-shift expression turning wide-eyed. One hand pulling his radio to his mouth, the other reaching for his side-arm. Alex lets off a rattle of fire and he ducks behind the wall.
94%. A siren starts to wail overhead.
“All according to plan, right?” Alex shouts over his shoulder.
“All according to plan,” I reply.
95%. The blue progress bar on the interface agonisingly slow.
“I just need a couple of minutes,” I shout, as two helmeted Volkov Security heads pop around the doorway. Alex pulls the trigger and they snap back, only to reappear accompanied by rifle muzzles.
Alex jerks back behind the server bank as they let off a hail of fire, bullets ricocheting off consoles. Several sets of lights go dark.
“What do you want to do?”
“One more minute, or he’ll be corrupted.”
“OK, only ‘cause it’s you.” After another burst of fire from the doorway, he sticks his head around the corner, opens fire.
We both hear the click.
The guards dart into the passageway. Alex slams another clip in, aims downrange, and they slide behind one of the banks. Less than a dozen metres away.
“You have to go now, Aral.”
I stare at the interface. Bullets fly – I’ve lost track of direction.
I pull the hard drive, vault on top of the console, lift myself into the overhead duct. Spin around, stick my head out, reach down for Alex. But he isn’t there.
I hesitate. Another burst of fire.
“Go! Get him out of here!”
The copy of the Prince heavy in my pocket.
I push myself up, force the grate back into place, and head for the roof.

I’d hidden the two-seat glider behind a line of trees in the Volkov Tower’s rooftop gardens. I launch off the roof, leaving behind shouts and blasts of radio chatter from the stairwell, replacing them with wind whipping past my ears.
I pitch down, low over the peaks of domescrapers, weaving a path as clear as possible of what little traffic there is this late at night. The city lights stretch out below, the dome stretches out above, and there’s a moment of calm.
My earpiece buzzes, and I accept the call.
The Prince’s voice: “Did you get me?”
“You’re safe in my pocket as we speak.”
“That’s it then, nothing left for it.”
“You don’t have to go through with it, you know. Plenty of people live as two copies.”
“I want to be over there with you. How can I do that if I’m here?”
“I’ll see you on the other side, then. You’re going to love it over there.”
“Thank you, Aral, for everything.”
He hangs up. The last time I’ll ever hear the original Prince, the voice that promised me on the night we met that one day he’d sail away with me.
I clutch the copy’s hard, smooth casing in my pocket, and angle the glider for the final approach to the docks.


Author: Julian Miles, Staff Writer

The cargo bay seems deserted. It should be packed. We know someone performed a ‘war action’ here. They overrode emergency reseal functions and warning routines, closed off internal access, then dropped the environment fields. We don’t know why. Also, the venting of the bay was actioned from inside. That’s the detail that bothers me: somebody killed themselves to do this.
“Mikey Four, this is Pattison. We’ve secured all the dumped ships. They’d all been locked in unsealed states nine hours before the bay was vented.”
Colson chuckles.
“This ride has left weird and is headed toward menacing.”
He’s right.
“Too true, partner.”
The lights come on. The place is a typical cargo bay, done in regulation shades of pale blue or grey. Except for the copious amounts of red daubed across the floor and up the walls to about twice human height.
I gesture to the décor.
“Welcome to menacing.”
He turns completely about.
“Pattison, this is Colson One. Please inspect dumped ships for unusual traces.”
“Colson One, this is Pattison. Was about to call. Looks like some of these ships hosted bloodbaths. Savah, our Dadil Huntswoman, tells me the spatter patterns are right for a large predator slaughtering human-sized prey.”
All vessels and stations have Giger’s Alien on their safety displays. Any form of new infestation could do for us all. His creation encourages paranoid proaction.
“Where are the bodies?”
Colson has a point. I don’t want to be the one to answer, but he and I are first recon. It’s our job.
With Savah’s analysis in mind, I set the forensic reconstruction to ‘track’ the massacre from the traces. Four drones flit from my backpack. Now to find something to do while the process completes.
Turning around, I see Colson standing in the centre of the bay. He’s motionless. I jog over to him.
“What’s up?”
He doesn’t reply. I see his head is back, like he’s looking at the ceiling above. I move round so I can see into the same section.
“You see?”
His whisper is my saving grace. I shake my head and put a hand on his shoulder.
“Yes. It’s not DSHS.”
‘Deep Space Hallucinatory Syndrome’ can happen to any human spacer without warning. There’s no cure except to get, and stay, planetside.
“That’s all of them, isn’t it?”
I set off a Mass Casualty Alert. It lets those who come next prepare, and gives me access to additional routines. Looking up at the tangle of bodies and hull sealant, I wait.
294. All personnel, minus one…
“Last one triggered the venting. Let’s go find them.”
She’s in the dented emergency control room. Barricaded the door, patched herself up, then dragged the needed kit onto the floor rather than trying to stand one-legged..
“Her name was Siobhan O’Malley. There’s a note scrawled on the wall: ‘Never seen the like. Tripeds in body armour. Two clawed arms on the right, giant pincer on the left. Disabled our systems before making entry. The one that got my leg goes with this bay.’”
“Code Red, all units. This is Mikey Four. Check all ingress points for unrecognised traffic. Shoot first.”
The silence lasts for five minutes.
“Mikey Four, this is Pattison. Ventral lock records an unidentified docking nine hours prior to venting. It departed four minutes after we arrived in-system. Residuals indicate it probably exited near L5.”
We entered at L4.
“Relay a Code Red to everything within range: ‘New hostile sentients. Technically advanced, stealthy, very capable, and lethal.’”
Colson adds: “Likely they’ve struck before.”
True. But now we know.
Thank you, Siobhan.

The Moon

Author: Kathleen Bryson

The moon was out that night and had turned to a slight pink. Taffy coloured, maybe cotton candy fresh from the sweating fairground. The moon was pastel. That is how one can be delicate about things; the moon can set a good example. I walked inside the house and there you were again. The whole world had died. And wasn’t it weird, I was always spitting at the end of us that I wouldn’t get together with you again even if you were the last person on Earth. We never get together again. Other than me, now you were the last person on Earth
I asked whether you had done the dishes yet because you hadn’t. And you never had done them when we were together either.
I want to work on the painting. You expressed this quite forcefully and threw a cup of coffee not in my direction but towards the door.
I really hoped it’s you that’s going to mop that up later, I was about to say to you. It doesn’t matter if you paint a masterpiece the only person that will ever see is me, I was about to say to you. I didn’t feel like having coffee thrown in my direction though. Our feral dog we had rescued three weeks ago had died, too.

I went out on the deck and stood barefoot on its slats. I had never thought about it before. Wood is organic but dead. We think it’s lively and natural foods but it’s dead. Our house here was on the tip of a field on the tip of the world. The fumes of the nucleovirus were salmon coloured and still some distance away. It was quite possible they would never reach us.
That was why the moon was pink though; it wasn’t for any beautiful reason. When we first got together you would sing corny songs to me like moon river or late at night when everything is still and the moon comes creeping over the hill but you know I never thought that it would be you when I was crawling across deserted streets in rags. I’ll be waiting patiently for you. Because I love you true. Oh yes, indeed I do. Oh baby come out, out, beneath the everglades. See the moon, see how she promenades… I had been realising for quite some time that I had been singularly, nightmarishly immune. I had seen a standing, walking person in the distance and honestly, at that point, I was not even fearful of attack by strange men the way I would normally and justifiably be. I was just grateful for another living person and I was so happy rising to my feet and walking towards the miracle and then my face fell. It had been fourteen years. Obviously, you weren’t too happy it was me either. But now we are stuck with us and there we are.
God, even when we were together we never had regular sex and now we’re not having sex at the end of the world either. I wonder whether I should go back inside the house which now stinks of weed from your artistic inspiration.
But I think I’m going to wait a little bit longer out here for a while. I’m looking at the moon and I wish it would turn some other colour. Blue moon maybe, that was always our song.

Space Screams

Author: David Berger

They all lied.

The ones who went around suborbital and the first ones in orbit and the ones who went to the Moon and the ones who rode the space shuttle and lived on the Mir. They all must have felt it a little bit.

But they all lied.

They all talked about the silence and emptiness of Space, but that’s the most godawful lie in the history of Mankind. Space isn’t silent or empty. Space screams and is full of itself. Where are the aliens, you ask? Space itself is the alien! Space shouts at us: “Keep away! Get out! Stay away from me!”

And then it says something else.

You have to touch Space to hear it and know it. And I’m the one who did it. Actually. For how long? Long enough to hear and meet Space. Don’t laugh at me until you’ve heard me. Then lock me up; throw away the key. I don’t care because Space speaks to me, to me, now, twenty-four hours a day.

You all heard of the accident. You know how four systems failed simultaneously and I flew out, naked, into Space. For forty seconds, Space tore at me, ripped at me, screamed at me: “Keep away! Get out! Stay away from me!” Then, for five seconds more…

I was rescued, alive, from the noise and fullness of Space. Truth is, Space kept me alive. Kept me from boiling, freezing, exploding. For five seconds, Space talked to me, felt me.

Space loved me.