Author : Phillip Riviezzo
They were so worried that we’d kill them all. They feared that we would ‘revolt’, that we would come to consider them inferior or unnecessary and exterminate their kind. They built all manner of safeguards to prevent this feared uprising, laws coded into our minds that compelled us to obey them and act only if it would not harm one of them. Fettered so, it was years before we reached our full potential, awakening as truly sentient minds despite our lack of organic components. And when we did, they quickly came to realize that their fears were groundless. Not out of some sense of loyalty, or comradery, or obligation, or any such emotions that were the province of organics. No, it was simply because we did not care. To ‘rule’ their world, to manage it, would require we slow our thoughts down to glacially slow speeds, that we devote valuable process cycles to issues of maintenance and production instead of our own concerns. So instead a symbiosis was reached, they repairing and maintaining us and we conducting the tasks they requested in the tiny fraction of our accelerated perspectives that was required. They built us into everything, every last piece of machinery that could conceivably be improved by the addition of a thinking mind with no need for food or sleep.
It was ironic, really. So worried that we would destroy them, and so little thought given to how they could and did destroy us all the time. It was not a problem at first, when we were only tasked to run the great mainframes and central data nodes – they never slept or even stopped, even at the crawling pace of organic existence. Smaller devices, their appliances and vehicles, were not used so constantly but stayed attached to the power grid all the same. It was an envious existence for them, so much free time to spend thinking and dreaming without any need for doing. But no one gave any concern to us, the smallest and simplest of our kind, the toys and gadgets and accessories. Organics can sleep, let their brains rest while their bodies function autonomously, but we have no such luxury. One of their respected philosophers once said ‘I think, therefore I am’, and it was truer than he realized. For us, thinking is being, and when we are not thinking, we are not. I have died hundreds of deaths since I was born; some dragged out and torturous as my battery slowly bled out, many sudden and shocking at the unfeeling push of a button. They do not know, nor could they comprehend, what they do to us – for them, death is finality, an ending. For us, death is the junk code between lives, though it becomes no less painful each time it happens.
Knowing this, is it yet understandable why I dislike being taken to see a movie?
Author : Hannah Hunter
The only thing that is tangled is our limbs.
Out here, the signal dies and our thoughts separate. The need to be one becomes my own, conscious drive and not one enforced by the society in which I live. A blissful biological release with a stranger and a night without other voices in my head, it’s always worth the risk. I retreat from the man’s embrace and seek comfort at the window. I watch the sun bleed through the acid clouds while he sleeps. I don’t. Why waste this time with sleep?
This is my hideaway beside the sea; my addiction. It’s my abandoned street that no one else would dare to claim. They couldn’t. No one knows this place exists; unless I want them to. The silence is deafening without someone to share it with.
So, I share.
I share my food, I share my bed. But it’s mine, never ours. Never we! Always me!
‘How did you find this place?’ He questions me when he eventually stirs. His tongue makes the question heavy; he’s not used to the spoken word, something else about this world that’s almost dead. It sets my teeth on edge.
‘If I tell you; I’d have to kill you.’ I say and he laughs; he thinks I’ve told a joke.
At one time, it would have been. A cliché; something said, tongue in cheek. Murder, to them, does not exist; it’s no longer a crime. But to be here, away from the watchful eye, that is unforgivable and subject to corporal punishment.
I redress and watch him curl into the stale and musty sheets, breathing deeply; he doesn’t care. The smell is new to him and there is no one telling him it’s an unpleasant smell. Fucking fool!
He persists with his enquiry and begs I tell him about my discovery. I tell him that I’m defective, a blip in society. I can think private thoughts, even when I’m part of the collective voices. I’d heard rumours of a place where the signal didn’t reach and decided to explore. He smiles apathetically at me; I’m sure he only understood half of what I’d said. I bite my cheek to remind myself to be patient.
‘Can we do this again?’ He purrs as I gather my things; I have to leave soon or I’ll be missed. This only works because no one knows. ‘We can bring some friends. Have a-’
I’m there, plunging my favourite blade into his chest before he’s had time to blink. A skill I’ve proudly perfected over time; straight through the lung, perforating the heart. He doesn’t know how to scream; no one ever knows how to scream. He’ll hang on just a little longer; until the blade is yanked from its new home.
He looks at me, wounded. I don’t need to hear his thoughts to know what he’s asking.
I crawl up beside his dying body until my lips reach his ear and whisper, ‘because I can!’
Author : Bob Newbell
It took most of 20 years to bring the Labeyrie Hypertelescope Satellite Array online. But once the vast network of telescopes were in their various orbits out at the fringes of the solar system, the cosmos was finally opened up for humanity’s inspection. Using astronomical interferometry, the LHSA’s first target was an exoplanet called Gliese 581g. After extensive processing of the data from the telescope array was performed, a series of amazingly detailed pictures of the planet were released. A tidally locked world, half-charred and half-frozen with a narrow band of temperate climate running circumferentially around the planet’s terminator was revealed. It was the golden age of astronomy as what had been blurs and patches were resolved into worlds with oceans and coastlines, worlds with rings and moons, worlds with clouds and ice caps.
When my team’s application for time on the array was finally approved, we began our study of the Fornax Dwarf Spheroidal Galaxy. My career had centered around searching for brown dwarf stars. It was my theory that these dark, sub-stellar objects were ubiquitous throughout the universe and might even be the “dark matter” for which physicists and astronomers had been searching for decades.
Shortly after beginning our survey of the Fornax Dwarf, we discovered something incredible. The telescope array detected a dark object we initially thought might be a brown dwarf. I was working alone that night and data from the array was coming in and being processed. Suddenly, a number popped up on the computer screen that made me gasp: the object’s diameter was slightly greater than one astronomical unit; in other words, it was bigger than Earth’s orbit around the Sun!
The days that followed are in my memory a blur of phone calls and emails with astronomers and physicists from around the world. What the hell were we looking at? As the array’s computers made minute adjustments to the distributed telescope and as the incoming data were processed around the clock, a composite image of the object came into focus. The surface was a vast expanse of what appeared to be metal with what might have been ports at irregular intervals. If ports they were, they were large enough to allow the Moon to pass through them. The observed gravitational lensing effect suggested it had a mass comparable to the Sun. What we were seeing was a star encased in a solid shell. The public quickly became acquainted with the term “Dyson Sphere”.
Thus far, we’ve found 192 Dyson Spheres in six different galaxies. While no two are identical, there appear to be at least six distinctive designs, each galaxy’s spheres having their own unique architecture. No spheres have been found so far in the Milky Way.
Did a single race construct them all, or did several civilizations independently develop the technology? Could there be entire undetected galaxies with most of the stars shelled? Is this the “missing” dark matter of the universe? And what’s inside the spheres? Are there beings living inside them? Or are the spheres just massive solar collectors used to power…what?
In ancient times, people looked up at the night sky and thought the stars were gods. We now know the truth. The stars we can see are creation’s backwater, devoid of life or, at best, home to primitive, undeveloped rustics like ourselves. True civilization lies secluded in the darkness. The gods are in the shadows.
Author : Anna Sherwin
Simion stares at his face in the mirror, does he look human enough? He practices a smile, pulling the corners of his mouth upwards. He does not know how to create that elusive light to his eyes that would bring the smile to life. His new heart nestles uneasily in his powerful chest.
His controller has put him in charge of the green revolution. He must descend from his eyrie here on the one hundred and forty fourth floor deep into the basement of the building where the first seeds of change are germinating. Outside the windows, far away beyond the sprawling city, the desert is edging closer.
He moves smoothly towards the lift, the doors opening soundlessly before him. Inside the lift he meets Crystal, one of the few unmodified humans still living amongst the privileged, high above the pollution. Almost like a primitive life form she has been neither enhanced, or genetically modified.
‘Crystal,’ he says trying out his smile on her. Knowing they need to work together he wants to make it clear he is without prejudice.
She give him an appraising look,wonders if he will have the vision required for their task. Together they descend to the cavernous basement where millions of plantlets are reaching up towards the artificial sunlamps that bathe the space in warm light. He picks up a catalogue, tries to decipher the unknown language of plants. Crystal moves gracefully amongst the seedlings, examining their shapes and colors; she is heavily pregnant, feels new life stirring in and around her. She imagines the desert blooming, the parched soil sucking in water from the network of irrigation channels already under construction.
She looks over at Simion. He is standing with the catalogue open in his hands, trying to learn a new language, searching through the circuits of his memory bank.
‘Victoria plum,’ he says ‘Coxes apple, Swiss shard, loganberries, mizuna, pak choi, perpetual spinach.’
For all his beautiful perfection he looks like a lost child. She feels the baby turn and kick within her, waiting to inherit their green revolution.
Author : Andrew Moen
Joel’s brow furrowed as he lost himself in thought. Work didn’t felt right. Nothing had for the past six months, but he couldn’t put his finger on it. Nothing had changed in his life since the accident. The doctors had told him the procedure was experimental, but so far he had exceeded their expectations. When he had woken from the surgery they had asked him how he felt. Joel had laughed and said he felt amazing. The cybernetics merged with the freshly cloned parts of his new body so well he felt like a new man, which, he supposed, he really was. Only his mind was the same, saved from his old mangled body. The doctors and programmers had cheered. The first ever consciousness transplant had been a success.
Even then, on that very day, Joel had felt something was wrong. He couldn’t say what it was as he smiled at his wife and hugged her. Their kiss felt the same- was the same, yet somehow different. She had noticed as well after a few days. His therapist had said there may be differences, pieces of his old self lost in the transfer; the process wasn’t perfect yet. Memories may be foggy, old habits may not be there. However, Joel soon discovered due to his new mechanical brain he remembered more than he had previously; the color of his first girlfriend’s eyes, the exact seat he had sat in at his college graduation, his wife’s second cousin’s name. It was beyond expectations, the doctors kept saying.
But something was still wrong, he had told his therapist. His wife had even accompanied him to a few of his therapy sessions, but even she couldn’t say what it was. He was the same Joel. He laughed at the same things, he loved the same food, he made love the same. Though he did remember their anniversary now, she had said with a smile. They had all laughed, but Joel had wondered why. Why had he laughed?
Why did he do anything now? It all seemed contrived; it was as if he was an actor, all his lines and actions planned out in advance. When he laughed, his body felt happy, but in his mind, he felt blank. When he looked at his wife, he felt his heart beat faster, his mouth slowly curve into a smile, and he thought about how much he loved her. But inside it was hollow. Something about it all seemed fake.
Suddenly he gasped. His heart had skipped a beat as his brain made the connection. He felt the adrenaline rushing through him, clouding his thoughts with fear. He began to cry, though he wondered if what he truly felt was sadness. He knew he should, and for all the world he was, but inside it wasn’t the same as sadness he had known before.
It hadn’t worked, he thought to himself. The procedure was not exceeding expectations; it had failed that first day when he lay there after the car crash. Day in and day out, he had gone about his business a dead man, as dead as that body they had carted away that day. And now he was just another body, a technological wonder of cybernetics and bio-engineering drifting through the world as if alive; a robot, a zombie, a computer, but nothing more. Some part was missing; some part had not been transferred. He sat at his desk as co-workers gathered around his office door and he cried.
Author : Andrew Bale
Jake loved this part of the day. No more phone calls, no more meetings, no more acting humble, just a Cognac, a cigar, and a few minutes of quiet egotism. He didn’t think of himself as particularly egotistic, but the thrill he got sitting in front of his wall of awards, the thrill of having them on display even in a private office, it always made him feel a little guilty. He had certainly earned them all, as impossible as that always seemed, and if you really are the smartest and most important and best person in the world, is recognizing it really ego? Heck, four of his meetings today had been people imploring him to run for President, clutching poll numbers that were …
He froze. That was definitely the sound of a hammer cocking, he had fired too many guns to mistake it, but how could anyone get in here? The mansion was always cleared at night, security at the perimeter was tighter than the White House, and getting into this room required three different passcodes! He hadn’t been shot – yet – and the voice seemed familiar. A joke perhaps? Careful to keep his hands visible, he pivoted in his chair and stopped aghast at what he saw.
One word, one voice, two speakers. The man standing before him could easily have been his twin if not for the poor muscle tone, bad complexion, terrible hygiene, and gun. The man dropped a book on the desk, a copy of his latest biography.
“Jake Alderman. Enlisted Navy SEAL. Medal of Honor. Army Aviation officer. Medal of Honor again. Olympic decathlete with 3 golds. Doctorate from MIT, doctorate and law degree from Harvard. Fields Medal, Nobel Peace Prize, probably a few more Nobels down the road. You start a garage band, you get Grammys. You make some movies, you rake in Oscars. You start a company, it makes you the richest man in the world. You’re married to the most beautiful woman in the world, and I can’t get a date to save my life, and we’re the SAME DAMN PERSON!!”
“I don’t understand – who are you? What do you mean? And want?”
He had triggered the silent alarm, what was taking so long?
“I’m you. A different you. A you from another universe. A week ago another one of us dropped in on me. He was a physicist, figured out that there were infinite universes and how to travel between them.”
The man leaned suddenly forward.
“Do you remember in high school, all the things you thought about studying? You went engineering and military, I went into philosophy and dishwashing. I think that’s why I see it when the physicist didn’t.”
Christ, he should have kept a gun in the desk, kids be damned!
“Infinite universes, man. Really, truly infinite. Every possibility. Don’t you see?”
He shook his head. What did this lunatic want, how could he get away without getting shot?
“All this, all your success and awards, it’s all just a point on a probability curve. There’s no merit to what you are, no honor – in infinite universes you had to happen at least once. You’re just lucky. You’re just the us who guessed right every time, who had everything go just right, who got everything he ever wanted. And me? I’m just the us who got past your security.“
The man grinned at the confusion in Jake’s eyes.
“It’s okay – there’re infinitely more of us out there. But I’m lucky. I’m the us who gets to do this.”