Saving Andie

Author : Lars H. Hoffmann

“And for the love of humanity, please come save me.” Concluded the video. Andie’s voice very nearly broke towards the end of the sentence, making the plea sounding as heartfelt as possible. There was a moment of silence before anybody spoke. Jason looked around the boardroom at the thirteen seated men. This moment was pivotal. Jason was convinced that each and every one of the board members were making up their mind right in front of his eyes. Had it worked?

“Thank you very much for this… this…” The chairman paused searching for words “…fascinating and moving presentation. We will of course need some time before we give you any sort of reply.”

“Of course.” Answered Jason. “We understand that a thirty billion dollars investment over ten years is not something to be taken lightly.”

“One final question: How certain are you that Andie is actually alive?” Asked the Chairman.

This was good, he was using Andie’s name anthropomorphizing the space rover.

“One hundred percent.” Said Jason without a moment’s hesitation. “The signal time to Titan is about an hour and a half from earth so she had to be autonomous. Her basic programming focused on learning from experience much like a child and at some point while driving around on Saturn’s moon she learned enough to become self-aware.”

He smiled his most charming salesman-smile and started collecting the materials he had used for the presentation. He stood up, thanked the board for their time and walked out.

Outside the building Carmen was waiting for him with an unlit cigarette in her left hand. When she saw him come out of the door she hurried over to him.

“How did it go?” She asked.

“I think they are going for it, they might actually fund the rescue mission and we can get her back home.” He said smilingly.

“Her?” Said Carmen disapprovingly. “It might have developed sentience and actual intelligence, but Andie is not man or woman.”

“Yes. Sure. I know.” Said Jason. “But the only reason why this meeting is different from the fourteen previous ones we’ve had with space operating companies is that I refer to Andie as a female and her voice was changed in the video.”

“Do you really think that is enough?”

“I don’t think the men in that boardroom will be able to ignore a damsel in distress.”

Discuss the Future: The 365 Tomorrows Forums
The 365 Tomorrows Free Podcast: Voices of Tomorrow
This is your future: Submit your stories to 365 Tomorrows

Die Laughing

Author : Rob Francis

Hyenas owned the dry, dead city.

They watched as Abal guided the rover down the empty roads, rolling around and over the scattered debris of civilization. His home was gone now, forever. It seemed absurd. Ridiculous. Perhaps that was why he couldn’t stop laughing.

Static crackled over the speakers, and a wavery voice filled the vehicle.

“Rover 12, Rover 12. You there, Abal? Reached A.A. yet?”

H.Q. He slowed to a stop and pressed the comms switch on the rover’s control panel.

“Not a soul to save, brothers.” No sign of the living. No sign of the dead.

From the roadsides hundreds of black eyes mocked him. Mouths gaped, slick wet tongues dangling. An entire metropolis of scavengers.

That would explain the lack of bodies. Possibly the lack of survivors as well.

Abal bared his teeth right back at them. They grinned together.

As he completed his circuit of the city, Abal tapped the comms switch again. “Sweep confirmed. No clean up needed here. No evidence of survivors, diseased or otherwise. Returning to cordon.”

He turned the rover back towards the broken highway and the long drive to safety. From the rearview camera, he saw that a large cackle had gathered in his wake. Hundreds of the vermin, drawn together by his tour of the deserted streets. Abal put his foot down.

As the engine rattled and died, he found himself laughing harder than ever, tears hot on his dusty face.

He did not laugh alone.

END

Discuss the Future: The 365 Tomorrows Forums
The 365 Tomorrows Free Podcast: Voices of Tomorrow
This is your future: Submit your stories to 365 Tomorrows

The Message in the Moon

Author : Beck Dacus

My team and I came to the exomoon Talursa expecting to find extraordinary things. Every new world was an exciting adventure for science– life, evolving completely isolated from the rest of the galaxy, making completely new life forms. It was expected to change exobiology forever, but no more than any other world had.

Instead it changed everything.

We came to this moon and found an abundance of plants, ones that photosynthesize and some that eat other plants. The ecosystem was so intricate and balanced, that we worried our mere presence may cause an extinction. But as we looked further, none of us were worried. Our impact was minimal.

For the first two weeks, it was your standard exobio mission. We all walked around and examined the plants up close. One thing we noticed was the ubiquity of asexuality; none of the organisms on the planet copulated to make offspring. Reproduction was restricted to cloning moonwide. And any organisms that randomly mutated were swiftly wiped out by the members of their own species.

This alone was spooky. We all wondered why such a tyrannical system would evolve among a whole biosphere. All our questions were answered at the beginning of the third week, when Tamara brought in the results of her genome sequencing.

“I found a message,” she said.

“Hmm?” Rick grunted unsuspectingly

“I did the genome sequencing on five of this moon’s species. Each one is a different message.”

“What!?” Perkins demanded. “Whaddaya mean?”

“I scanned the genome of five species, and each one had a unique binary pattern. I–”

“Computer code? There’s computer code in their DNA?” I tried to clarify.

“Yup. I plugged it in, and only got useful data out of two of them.”

“Slow down!” Dana said. “You’re saying something intelligent made all life on Talursa, encoding a different message into each species?”

“Yes. Their way of storing LOTS of information for a long time. Terabytes for eons. I looked over five, like I said, and only two registered in the computer. One was a video, and the other was a recording.”

“Well, what did they say?”

“I don’t know. The video was just a bunch of wavy colors, and the audio was garbled noise. But I saw patterns in them. They had information. We just need to send this to Earth cryptographers to decipher.

“Do we know why the other three didn’t work?”

“Not for sure, but I’m betting it’s because our computers can’t display smells.”

“Huh?”

“Or taste, or a tactile interface, or an electromagnetic field. The aliens that found this world could have had any type or combination of senses– they had to try everything. The two I could use probably had wavelengths of light and sound beyond a human’s range of hearing or vision.”

“So… we’re standing on a time capsule?”

“Carrying what?”

“Everything. All the information about, and ever collected by, some advanced race.”

“So, what do we do? Go back to Earth?”

“Right after we sequence the rest of the genomes on this planet, yes.”

“But that will take ages!”

“That is why you will all stop what you’re doing and help me.”

“What!?”

“Starting right now. There is no time to lose.”

“Hey, I’m mission command–”

“This is larger than us! This is humanity. Now everyone, to my lab. Lots of work to be done.”

Discuss the Future: The 365 Tomorrows Forums
The 365 Tomorrows Free Podcast: Voices of Tomorrow
This is your future: Submit your stories to 365 Tomorrows

Let Me Tell You About Falling

Author : Julian Miles, Staff Writer

CLOSED FOLIO ZERO-ONE (NEVER REVEAL)
INCIDENT GTMO-379
TRANSCRIPT 241-6064 – REDACTED – SUBJECT REPLIES ONLY

“There was a man called Zelazny who wrote of a monarchy who could travel parallel universes at will, able to switch from reality to reality by the application of simple visualisation techniques and movement.”

“Relevance? I wish it was that easy. You have to exceed a certain speed and maintain it for a certain distance. Given that many realities cannot offer methods of exceeding the equivalent of a galloping horse, my life has been interspersed with episodes of mountain climbing and Icarusian descents from said mountains, or the casual hurling of myself into canyons and other clever ruses to invoke the assistance of gravity to enable my departure from that particular clime. The fact I have always had a fear of heights is something I have to live with, as it turns out that confronting your fear, in my case, does nothing to lessen it at all.”

“Wait a moment, I’m getting there. I nearly died leaving Cassander 450, which is an iteration of Earth so far removed from the now I speak in that I may as well say “blue chased me because I stole it’s whimsy”, for all that the situation that caused my abrupt departure would make any sort of sense to you. Of course, Cassander 450 has some very fast transportation devices. Exceeding the speed for departure and maintaining it was not a problem. Arriving here and caroming through an articulated trailer destroyed the device beyond redemption and you wouldn’t have recognised it as anything bar a fancy piece of glassware anyhow.”

“No, I was unhurt because the residual slipcharge field allowed me to pass through the trailer in a semi-gaseous state, reintegrating me on the other side, when the physics of this world came to fully apply as the passage effects faded. I was not testing ‘some new terrorist attack’ and certainly have no interest in causing mass death and destruction. I’m a traveller. The ultimate tourist, if you will.”

“No, my mention of heights is not due to some post-suicide paradise belief.”

“Guantanamo? You’ll fly me? Then, quite frankly, it’s your only option. If you get me there, you can do your worst.”

SUBJECT 6064 LOST IN TRANSIT TO GTMO.

Discuss the Future: The 365 Tomorrows Forums
The 365 Tomorrows Free Podcast: Voices of Tomorrow
This is your future: Submit your stories to 365 Tomorrows

Creative Currency

Author : John Collins

I remember when they used to tell you that you can do anything. Now they say that machines can do anything. That is, except for one thing. There have been countless debates about the nature of intelligence, but one of the best, in my mind, is the argument that machines can’t be truly creative, that that is our talent and domain, and the sign of our intelligence over theirs.

Machines gave us a so-called post-scarcity world. One where whatever you need can be made and gotten out of a printer, a vending machine, or an online purchase. People work to provide needed services or for something to do, though even then there’s probably some robot or computer or gadget helping them. There’s no need for money anymore, though everything isn’t precisely free for everyone. That’s where my rant about creativity comes in.

In 320 N.C.E. (Neo-Colonial Era, or ‘Spacer’ era, probably around 3000 by the old Terran calendar), there’s one thing that keeps us around. We create. Really create, not just copy, imitate, or parody. The new economy, the new currency, is all about what you can create. And believe me, in some ways, it makes the old number-based trades look simple. It’s still a cutthroat world out there, though now they kill you with words, and bury you with poor reviews. If you’re putting some derivative, cliché-ridden rubbish out there, you’ll be caught instantly and castigated in the court of public opinion. Even the good ones have it hard trying to remain fresh and interesting.

Not that I’m complaining. Everything we dreamed of when we were stuck on one tiny planet has pretty much come to pass. Artificial intelligence has more than caught up with us in most respects, and if you want to see your friend from a colony out there, you just think it, and something will ID you by your brainwaves, ask you for a virtual setting, and you and your buddy will be together on an adventure in moments. Most personal vehicles fly themselves and draw on a kind of omnipresent energy known as ‘zero point’. No one starves, and we rarely get taken out by any diseases unless they’re some weird strain on another planet we didn’t account for. But if you want to be rich now, you want to be popular and influential, then write, paint, make holos or music or video games. But don’t perform the mortal sin of doing what’s been done before.

Unless, like me, you specialize in doing what’s been done. I’m a Mnemonic, someone who keeps our past alive by archiving and adapting and recreating, old media, new media, dream-captures, you name it. I’m a loophole in our system, and I love it. Whenever there are debates about history, a longing for long-gone art, they come to me. One day some machine’s going to take my job, but I’m going to hang on as long as I can. I’m the only one who can get away with being uncreative.

Discuss the Future: The 365 Tomorrows Forums
The 365 Tomorrows Free Podcast: Voices of Tomorrow
This is your future: Submit your stories to 365 Tomorrows

The Anniversary

Author : Benjamin A. Friedman

Roland and Martine enjoyed their Diamond Anniversary gondola ride down 5th Avenue towards the Old Village, sitting together in comfortable quiet as their oarsman, a Latin-American boy named Robert, strained again the azure sea.

The water level was low this summer – the lowest level on record, and entrance platforms were for the first time hovering in front of building facades long-weathered by flood waters, reinforced by ugly titanium-reinforced girders rising up from the depths below — meant on most days to be unseen — forgotten.

It was a calm day over all, just a few sky-cars swimming lazily through the airways above, a slow stream of pedestrian traffic darkening the umbilical tube passages between skyscrapers. The Freedom Tower ahead looked like a porcupine for all its wild extensions outward towards other buildings. A contemplative porcupine.

Roland and Martine were old enough to remember it all — the city without its fibrous forest of sky-ways, the city street hard and firm underfoot, the vagrant and the rich man, walking side by side in a chaotic bustle unimaginable in this day and age. Of course, no one lived in want anymore. None of America’s 47 million citizens wanted for anything — health-care, food, education — unless they chose to self-deprive…or refused to work, depending on their status.

“Look, Martine–” said Roland, suddenly, with great excitement, “it’s the café where we had our first date!”

Martine knit her brow in consternation. It had been such a pleasant day to this point; no troubling moments on this front, whatsoever. Roland’s Alzheimer’s was in remission again, and the doctors had assured her they could keep it that way this time for good. A 75th anniversary gift if there ever was one.

So what could he possibly be talking about?

“I’m serious, my love…right down there, look!” he said.

Roland pointed and Martine stared into the waters beside the gondola.

She remembered well how silty and awful those waters were in the years after the third Levee system gave out. Like a pool of blood and bile, pooled at the feet of the once great city she grew up in.

But now, shockingly, there was calm, and the sun was shining in a cross-beam through the forest of skyscrapers and spider web of connecting beams — and there, forty feet below them, she saw it. And she looked at Roland and whispered–

“Happy anniversary my love.”

Discuss the Future: The 365 Tomorrows Forums
The 365 Tomorrows Free Podcast: Voices of Tomorrow
This is your future: Submit your stories to 365 Tomorrows