Author : Clint Wilson, Staff Writer
His genius was detected at an early age. His penchant for numbers, particularly those relating to the intricate workings of world financial markets, was second to none.
To the delight of his parents he excelled beyond all expectations in his academic pursuits, receiving not one but two masters degrees by the age of sixteen.
By his twentieth birthday he was a world-renowned investment guru, appearing on media around the globe, giving new confidence to world leaders and common folk alike with his stalwart advice concerning all things financial.
At twenty-five he earned his first billion. The next year he doubled it. By age thirty he was easily the wealthiest man on the planet, being worth nearly double that of his closest challenger.
By age forty he was quite possibly the most famous person of all time, worth more than many small countries, and the face every single person, with a nickel to invest or a postage stamp to trade, looked up to for advice.
And his super computers both monitored and controlled the financial world. Each and every single transaction that took place, from a mining corporation in Brazil buying property in Siberia, to a child buying a stick of gum at the corner store, was all tracked and analyzed.
* * *
Leaders from around the globe were amassed in the deeply classified meeting. They had all come to hear him speak. Everyone sat motionless as he spelled out his plan.
“True the world market has gotten stronger but there is still this massive underlying debt. Everybody owes somebody else, in fact if you add up all the countries together the planet is over one-hundred trillion dollars in debt.”
The faces around the room remained transfixed, no one interrupted him. “And to whom are we in debt, hmm? Mars? How can a planet be in debt to itself? Yet here we are. It’s the perfect solution, and the only way it can work is if we act simultaneously and without warning. Not one person in this room may send even a single text if we vote yes, not until the announcement is made, then it’s game-on for all.”
“Don’t you fear the mayhem that this will cause?” asked a concerned delegate from Iceland.
“Not if we do it right and follow the new law. Everybody must abide, no exceptions!”
In the end an eighty-nine percent majority passed the act easily. Now all the politicians once again looked to the man at the head of the room. And as the cameras turned on and his image was simultaneously broadcast to every known media screen around the globe he began to address the citizens of Earth.
“Good people please know that by a majority vote of the world congress we are proceeding directly with the forgiveness act to take place as of now.” A copy of the act was beamed to all desktops everywhere. “Please abide by these rules as any variance from this new law is punishable by death.” He paused for dramatic effect. “Good, from this moment all old debts are erased forever. Nobody in the world owes anybody else anything. Your house is yours. Your car is yours. What is not yet yours is not yet yours. All wages continue, all people will be paid fairly for the work they do, but everybody starts over right now with a clean slate. Go ahead, the computers have already done their job. Check your mortgage balance… you no longer have one. Happy forgiveness day everybody, now behave yourselves, and get back to work!”
Author : Desmond Hussey, Staff Writer
“I’m thinking of breeding,” Theo declairs.
Teressa ponders Theo’s statement as she slices with butch determinism a bite-sized cube from her Viti-Gel (containing 33.3% of all her daily dietary requirements). She stabs the gelatinous orange chunk with a silver skewer before speaking. “You must be joking, darling. No one’s Bred in a hundred span!”
“I know,” Theo bubbles enthusiastically, “It’s so retro!” The two burst into hysterics. Theo’s shrill giggle duels riotously with Teressa’s atonal nasal quacking.
Finally catching her breath, Teresa barks, “Seriously?”
“Seriously. I want to have a baby!” Theo’s grin is wide and capricious. “With you.”
Teressa freezes, still as a basalisk. Half-way from plate to mouth an incredulous cube of acme-food jiggles at the end of her utensile.
“Don’t be absurd. The very idea makes me nauseous.” Her skewer clatters resentfully to the table. “There’s an excellent reason why we don’t have babies anymore, Theo. Life’s better off without the hassle. Trust me. As a woman, I know.”
“Oh, really? When’s the last time you even saw a child?”
“The Tenders manage everything marvelously and I’m perfectly content to let them. They raised you and I, right? We turned out civiilized.”
“Civilized.” Theo spits the word.
“Well, in my case, anyway,” Teressa smirks. “But I don’t think they were very thorough with your psyche profile.”
“Theo, babies only distract us from persuing what we want in life. Just look at what humanity has accomplished since the Tenders took over the whole messy ordeal of reproduction. Everyone’s free to pursue their passions, unburdened by a – well, a parasite basically.”
“You’re so melodramatic, Teressa.”
“And you’re a genetic throwback, Theo!”
“I prefer neo-bohemian.”
“Theo, I’ve got more important things to do than play with children.”
“That may be our very problem!” Theo stabs his finger righteously into the air. “We never play, let alone with children. We don’t see new citizens until they’ve graduated – at sixteen! I’ve no idea what kids are like, but they must be fun. We used to spend so much time making them.”
“Because if we didn’t, we’d’ve died out long ago. But it’s different now. We have the Tenders.”
“That’s a good thing?” Theo queries dubiously.
“Look, if you want to start wiping your ass with your hand – like we used to – go ahead, but don’t drag me into another one of you’re hair-brained experiments with antiquated human behaviours.
“But – “
“Is this about sex?” Teressa blurts.
“Is your Companion functioning?”
“Yes, dear. It’s working fine.”
“Sure you don’t want an upgrade? A new model came out last week.”
“I was thinking of getting one for myself anyway. I’m sure we can swing a deal for two.”
Theo flares, “I don’t want a new sex-bot, Teressa! I want a child! With you. Our very own child to –“
“To do what, Theo? You don’t know the first thing about raising a child.”
“That’s the whole point – to not know! We know everything now. Or think we do. Pretty much anything anybody would care to know about is simply an implant away. But kids! Kids are a whole new mystery. Each one unique. What do the Tenders know that we don’t?”
“I am not having your child, Theo. End of discussion.”
Theo, slumps into his chair defeated, deflated and dejected, hope oozing from his bleeding heart. A thoughtful silence hangs over the table long enough for the wall ambience to shift from morning to afternoon décor.
Theo takes a plaintive sip of his nutrient tetrapack – – before asking, “What if all you wanted to be was a parent?”
Author : Bob Newbell
“You scared, son?” the old man asked the large robot walking down the long, gray corridor beside him.
“I am incapable of emotion, doctor,” the automaton replied.
The old man nodded in response as he shuffled along. The robot walked slowly so as to remain at the side of the decrepit scientist. At the age of 100, Doctor Segrest was one of the youngest people alive.
Segrest chuckled. “Pretty clever of ’em when ya think about it,” he muttered.
“Doctor?” the machine asked as it moved along with a gait more fluid and graceful than that of its human companion.
“Oh. Them,” Segrest said glancing up at the ceiling of the long hallway. “Just thinkin’ ’bout how the aliens did us in a hundred years back. All those probes fallin’ all over the world releasin’ that virus that made everybody sterile. They coulda invaded like in some science fiction story firin’ lasers or missiles or whatever. Or they coulda sent a virus to just wipe us out. But then they’d have all those unburied corpses, machines runnin’ unsupervised until they broke down or caught fire. World without people would go to hell in a hand basket pretty quick.”
The machine listened politely but said nothing. Being a command robot with an advanced metaprocessor, it was well aware of the theory that the Infertility Virus that had been released into Earth’s food and water chain was the first step of an extraterrestrial invasion to take place much later. By allowing the human race to become extinct through attrition rather than by a massive military assault or abrupt genocide via biological warfare, the theory went, meant that mankind would attend to such tasks as burying or cremating the dead and shutting down hazardous facilities like nuclear reactors as the shrinking population made their continued operation redundant. Thus, the invaders would inherit an intact world for colonization and study, neither shattered by war nor devastated by sudden depopulation.
“Yep,” Segrest continued, “those alien sons of bitches think they’re gonna walk right in and take over.” He chuckled again and then looked up at the towering machine. “They didn’t count on you fellas.”
As the two walked toward the door at the end of the corridor, the robot silently downloaded reports from its mechanical brethren all over the world as well as from those in orbit around both the Earth and the Moon. The large alien fleet was now inside the orbit of Saturn. It was still a few weeks from Earth. As far as could be determined, the fleet appeared completely unarmed. The command robot processed the data. It determined that the 23,000 nuclear warheads at its disposal were far more that sufficient.
“It’s been about 50 years since we gave up on trying to reverse the Infertility Virus,” Segrest told the robot as they stopped in front of the door. “Fifty years since mankind gave up on survival and found a new purpose. Vengeance.”
“Doctor Segrest, I must get to the command station in orbit,” the robot said flatly.
The old man nodded. “You go right on, son. There are only about 50,000 people left. Soon Earth will have a population of zero. Except for the machines. This will all be yours. You folks are what’s next. Complete your mission, son. Avenge us.”
“Goodbye, Doctor,” the robot said as it walked through the hatch which automatically closed behind it.
Ten minutes later, a spaceplane took off and arced upward toward the stars. Segrest watched it ascend.
“Avenge us!” he said to the fading point of light.
Author : Holly Jennings
“January 18th, 2311. Patient is Makayla Jenson. Session one.” Dr. Rhan sets the recorder down on the table between us and clears her throat. “John tells me you’re having trouble with your dreams?”
I glance down at John’s ring on my finger. I try to wear it as much as I can when I’m not working.
I like when I’m working.
“Yes.” I nod. “They’ve taken over my sleep.”
“I’d say so. The whole crew has heard you screaming to wake.”
She squints over her glasses at me. The blue-speckled frames cut through the center of her eyes as if she’s half blind to the world. Everything else about her is so plain that she blends into the ship’s stark grey walls behind her. I let my vision blur. She disappears. Only the frames remain behind like the grin of a Cheshire cat.
Screaming to wake, I repeat to myself and chuckle inwardly. Screaming to go back.
“What do you dream about?” she asks.
Sunlight. Warmth on my face. Dry air percolating in my lungs. I never thought a desert could be so refreshing, especially when I rouse to John’s touch, icy as the galaxy around us.
I could have chosen a bigger ship. No, had to take John’s vessel so we’d be together all the time.
All the time. No escape. No way out.
After some piddle-paddle about the latest research on nightmares and how common it is for space dwellers to dream of being elsewhere, the doctor says our time is done and I’m to come back tomorrow. When I turn to leave, she deposits a little white pill in my hand.
“Put it under your tongue before bed,” she says.
More like down the sink.
I nod to satisfy her and leave the room.
I return to my quarters. The far wall is a sheet of clear aluminum silicate, like a floor-to-ceiling window. It catches glimpses of my reflection as I move about the room though none of my dark features show: my raven hair, brown eyes or tanned skin. Just a shadow of myself.
I walk up to the window, press my forehead against it, and look out the cold, empty vastness that doesn’t seem nearly as deep as the one inside. Against the backdrop of a foreign world and its lifeless moons, I can still see the faintest image of a girl I once knew trapped in the tiny space between the ship and the universe.
There’s no smile on her face.
I wave at my reflection with the tips of my fingers. The phantom image waves back from within her prison.
Something tiny nudges my palm and I looked down at my other hand. My fingers uncurl and I study the sedative resting in the cavity of my palm. I put the pill where it belongs. It spirals around the sink until it disappears into darkness of the drain. Then I crawl into bed to escape into my dreams, the one place where I’m free.
The one place where John can’t find me.
I look back at the window. The ghost girl appears again and the heaviness in her face tells me she’s tired too. I watch her drift to sleep. Though still trapped within the glass, I notice something’s different just before she closes her eyes.
Author : Patricia Stewart, Staff Writer
“Welcome aboard, Mrs. Dieter.”
“Why, thank you, Captain Dieter,” Lana replied with a giggle, and followed it up with a long, hard kiss. Afterwards, she embraced him firmly and said, “I can’t believe I married a 200 year old man.”
“I’m thirty-five,” he corrected. “I just happened to have been born 200 years ago. It’s one of the consequences of choosing a career piloting interstellar cargo ships at near light speed.”
“I can’t imagine how hard it had to be for you to leave your family and friends for so long, knowing that they would grow old, while you stayed young.”
“I won’t lie to you, darling, it ruined my first marriage. Unlike you, Demetra was afraid of space, and wouldn’t leave Earth. It didn’t seem like such a big deal at the beginning. After all, the Alpha Centauri run has the least relativistic effects. However, I’d age only a year, as Demetra and the kids aged eight. However, the money was good, so we thought we could deal with it, but after the fourth run it became untenable. Relative to me, in four years, Demetra was older than my mother. I couldn’t handle it. I asked for a divorce. I willingly gave her all my money, and signed up for the Denebolian run. She died during the 73 year voyage, and I haven’t been back to Earth since.”
“Was she pretty?”
Concluding that he had already said too much on the subject, he tried to divert her attention. “Not compared to the prettiest girl in the universe,” he said as he framed her face in the palms of his hands. “Well, that is, until Halona decides to join us,” he added has he padded her slightly protruding tummy. “Now, if I don’t get this ship out of the dock, Phobos Control will give someone else our launch slot, and we won’t get to Regulus before the cargo spoils.” He kissed her forehead lightly, and headed toward the flight deck, truly believing the topic was behind them.
Several months later, however, after initiating the Regulus breaking sequence, Wendell Dieter entered their bedroom to find Lana sitting on the edge of the bed in tears. Fearing a problem with the pregnancy, he rushed to her side. “What’s the matter, honey? Is the baby okay?”
She pointed to the desk monitor with a trembling finger, “Is that your Demetra?” she asked through stifled sobs.
It was. Wendell couldn’t understand why his new wife was so fixated on a woman that’s has been dead for centuries. “Honey, what’s this about? I explained to you a dozen times…”
“No, no, no, it’s not that. It’s a Genealogy site. I was constructing Halona’s family tree. Demetra’s daughter was my grandmother. You’re my great grandfather.”
Author : Jae Miles, Staff Writer
After Grandma died, Grandpa settled into being the selfish octogenarian teenager he had always been under the veneer of wisdom and mischief. When his body started to fail, he didn’t notice for a while as he played so much. Eventually we had to intervene to save him from himself. Today, he’s viewing his new home, one fully approved by Decade Eight and thankfully affordable.
“But they don’t even have a megabit network interface!”
Give me strength, Grandma. How did you not throttle him with the power lead from his vintage PS4?
“Look; the room doesn’t have a vari-pos screen and the armchair is unpowered.”
At this point, a bright and distractingly bouncy nurse in a blue-green skinjob under her transparent nurse’s suit enters the room. Grandpa’s eyes go saucer-wide, like the first time he’d seen Ellen without the modesty panels in her daysuit.
“Challene Deathblade?” He sputtered.
With a megawatt smile she crouches by him and Ellen, my wife, has to look away from the intimate view provided as Grandpa leans forward to get a better look.
The nurse in cosplay bodypaint has a dazzling smile and her cleavage is seemingly bottomless. “You’re a fan? Oh great. I’m outnumbered by the Empire players.”
Grandpa looks ready to cry. “I used to be a mercenary guild Reptiliad, but I’m useless without enhanced play.”
I know that Grandpa, you spent our inheritance on neural accelerators to compensate for your slowing reflexes. The painted but fundamentally nude nurse leans close and stage-whispers: “Why do you think this place looks so ordinary? We put all of our investment into wireless care. Everything you need is available from dropdown menus, we monitor your body state all the time and prevent more than we have to fix. Plus it gives us a multi-hundred gig bandwidth to parallel you with a fully persona’d neural assistant.”
The look of stubborn non-cooperation on Grandpa’s face vanishes like a switch has been thrown. Ellen doesn’t see because the male counterpart of bouncy nurse has entered the room. Her eyes nearly suck this red-skinned Adonis with brown tattoos clean out of his suit. I need to get her out of here before comparisons with my blatantly ungym rounded padding are made.
“When can I move in, ‘John Carter’?” Grandpa’s voice is querulous and Ellen catches my eye. The advice from the Octogenarian Gamer network had been spot on.
“I see you’re persona non-abode due to mandated residential care, so you don’t actually have to leave, sir. You can scan your flat from here and eyetag everything you want brought over. I’m Doctor Evander Morgan. It’ll be a pleasure and honour to host a veteran gamer like yourself.”
Doctor Morgan’s voice is businesslike, but his pecs flex slowly and I see Ellen’s eyes widen.
Grandpa smiles for the first time in forever. “Do it. Adam, Ellen, you can leave me here.”
Morgan looks at Ellen and smiles. I see the flush spread down the back of her neck.
“We’ll need one of your family to drop in a couple of times to finalise the details. Challene; sorry, Nurse Burton will see to getting ‘Grandpa’ bedded in and implanted.”
Ellen steps forward. “My husband’s very busy right now, but I have no problem coming in when you need me to.”
She smiles straight at Morgan’s chest and I decide that work be damned, whenever she comes to ‘see Grandpa’, I’m coming too.