by Clint Wilson | Apr 1, 2013 | Story |
Author : Clint Wilson, Staff Writer
“Breeding for luck?”
“Breeding for luck.”
“Why does that sound familiar?”
“A famous 20th century science fiction writer once hypothesized…”
“Okay, okay I remember now. I read the whole series,” waving his hand in the air, “Plus most of his other stuff, brilliant fellow indeed.” Then the elderly prime minister’s face became serious again, “But you’ve done it for real?”
His science advisor looked like a schoolboy bursting with a nasty secret, “Better yet if I show you, come this way sir.”
As they ambled down the long corridor the younger man briefed him. “Sir our families go back together well over a century, in fact,” he held up a knowing index finger like an exclamation point, “my great grandfather started this experiment with your own great uncle, the thirtieth minister, Hector.”
The prime minister’s face showed genuine surprise. “Really, that far back?”
“It takes time to breed through generations sir. Of course they started with the best. The first couples were all multiple lottery winners, many of them also recipients of large family inheritances. But we didn’t stop there.”
“Oh?” Now the older man was entirely transfixed.
“No sir, not at all. We had survivors of multiple accidents. There was one fellow who lived through three plane crashes, and a woman who plunged from 40,000 feet without a parachute only to land in a thick patch of forest without a single broken bone.”
“Amazing!” interjected the prime minister.
“Indeed,” answered the scientist. “And we kept at it, over and over, testing subjects in a variety of ways. One of the earlier descendants is said to have played over 500 hands of blackjack against a professional Vegas dealer without a single loss.”
“Oh you tale spinner Norbert, don’t keep me in suspense, where does that leave us now?”
They reached a large set of double doors. “Come see for yourself sir.” He pushed through and they entered a laboratory buzzing with activity. “Ah good, we are about to witness a live test run. Our timing couldn’t be more perfect.”
The lab-coated workers parted as their boss and their national leader walked toward the large bay window overlooking the testing room. Together the men stood and watched as the scene unfolded.
Inside the chamber a door opened and a young man entered wearing a blindfold. Norbert pushed an intercom button and said, “Go ahead Mr. Reid, like we practiced, make your way through the room at your own leisure, and remember, it’s all virtual, you can’t be hurt.” Then releasing the button, “He’s our best sir, you’re bound to like this.”
Then the two watched as the blindfolded man proceeded forward and a spiked club sprung down from the ceiling missing him by inches. He continued and stumbled forward as a volley of sharp darts flew by just above his head. And it continued, a swooshing razor sharp axe, an onslaught of arrows, a pit full of buzzing saw blades, he stumbled on almost comically, avoiding all of it without a scratch. And then for the grandest of finales as he neared the far side of the room, he suddenly hopped to the left, narrowly missing the crushing weight of a grand piano dropped from a hidden trap door.
The prime minister applauded, “Marvelous, simply marvelous!” Then he turned, a questioning look on his face. “But I must know, how was that virtual, everything looked entirely real.”
“Oh it was,” the scientist patted him on the shoulder and smiled. “It all has to be real, otherwise we wouldn’t really be testing his luck now, would we?”
by submission | Mar 31, 2013 | Story |
Author : Morrow Brady
Nightshift was almost over when iHUD flashed:
“Great! More lumps and bumps” My sarcasm catching Turing’s interest.
“Yeah, I scanned him in. Big and green. I’ve never seen anything like it” Turing exclaimed.
Khomyakov, a deep space medical ship was stationed strategically to serve the needs of the frontier marine colonies. Providing care via live virtual links with ground based medical technology so advanced it was experimental.
The report explained that during a sustained ground attack on B, a green planet orbiting Epsilon Eridani, a Marine reported a pinch in his back, he was comatose within the hour. By the time he arrived at Base Hospital the abscess had begun to form.
The young Marine lay prone, his biological deep scan danced like haunting spirits across iHUD. The green capped abscess barred examination and was growing fast.
accelerated growth, no prognosis.
Time for a closer look. I let loose a spider, a medical robot, to start with a tactile assessment. The hand sized spider emerged from the bedside recess, it’s elegant scissor legs delicately eased onto the Marine’s back
The EyePaint applied to every available surface mapped the treatment cell in 4D. It gave me omni-presence but at the moment it was giving me nothing.
The spider prodded and massaged the abscess mound. Leg tip sensors fed tactile and ultrasound data, identifying an internal mass. As I viewed through the spider’s 42 micro-lenses, I thought I saw the mass move. Or was it just lens distortion?
“This abscess is telling me nothing!” I said to Turing.
“Stick it. Lets see what’s inside” Turing’s avatar joined in.
I instructed Spider to setup a needle probe and immediately it’s white steel leg shivered and from within, a needle articulated into a functional form.
Bracing itself against the Marine’s spine, the needle tip targeted its entry point while micro nozzles lacquered the skin in topical anaesthetic. The tip pushed slowly against the skin causing a slight depression and then abruptly broke through. The green mass shivered in response.
“Did you see that?” I exclaimed to Turing.
In the background, physical and digital security lockdowns cascaded. Nothing would get in or out. Turing had my back and was playing it safe.
I pushed deeper through the pus filled outer sac, receiving feedback from the nacelle sensor array.
white blood cells – high concentration
Strong natural defences meant the Marine was winning the battle. High concentrations meant he was losing the war.
I advanced the needle toward the mass, now a silvery green bladder before me and flicked a handful of collectors. They clung like limpets to the fibrous skin.
complex muscular cell formation.
I advanced further, the needle tip meeting resistance from the muscular mass. The Electromagnetic spider legs powered up 50% punching through. Turing shuddered.
Through the lens array, a sinewy tendril faded into view, spiralling away through green fluid. I followed it blindly to the centre of the mass where a tiny arm hovered, resting against the tendril. I panned across, following the length of the arm and held my breath as a large pink alien shape with veiled green eyes stared down at me. In shock, I reversed immediately bringing it fully into view.
The human foetus, a delicate shade of pink was unmistakeable, suspended within its liquid womb.
Clone Parasite, 99.99% DNA matchup to host.
As I contemplated humanity’s demise via substitution, a pinch in my side made me wince. Turing stared at me with deep green eyes, a small woven tube in his hand.
“I thought your eyes were blue?”
by submission | Mar 30, 2013 | Story |
Author : John Arcadian
The lag has made us patient. Not humanity, just Marie and I, and maybe a few others. You see, I’m on the lunar launch station on the farthest part of the moon that is viably habitable. It’s a spider-webbed grid of interconnected, but autonomous, pods that contain living space, communal areas, bureaucratic offices, and all those other little fiddly bits that make launching deep space rockets feasible. I took a 1 year contract up here for the paycheck. While I walk through the tunnels to visit other workers and friends, my real contact comes when I talk to Marie by satellite relay. It’s cheap, reliable, and almost everyone up here uses the relays to video chat with their left-behinds on that big blue-green marble that we all want to get back to.
We’re just far enough for there to be a bit of continuous lag, maybe 20 or 30 seconds, even if you are just sending bytes of text. So we’re used to periods of silence and stillness while waiting for a response. You get very zen about it because there’s no other option.
When the explosion knocked me off my chair, the emergency lights flooded my pod with their yellow glare and the alarm klaxons started blaring. Marie was still telling me about the movers transferring her desk out of her office. I was busy locking down the airlocks and ensuring my seals were tight, so I didn’t get a good look at her reaction as my pod started to float away, but I could tell she was freaked out.
My living pod, including the relay dish, is powered by high-efficiency solar panels. The algae tanks are intact and will pump out enough oxygen and protein mass for me to “live” indefinitely. Command sent a message explaining about the exploding rocket and the pod eject procedures that saved most of us. Rescue ships are on their way. Most of the other pods are in stable, so the risk of death before rescue is minimal. It’s a very smartly designed system. Just have to sit back and wait for rescue. At least I’ve still got contact with Marie.
The first days were the worst. You could watch the lag getting worse the farther out you drifted. I’ve got a notepad with the calculated lag times for the first 4 days. After a few hours of drifting it took roughly 4 or 5 minutes between replies. By the second day it was at 13 minutes. The third day had it out to 49 minutes. We’re on week 3 now. It takes about 65 hours or so for a reply. Most of the pods are floating in a steady pattern, emergency beacons and maneuvering jets keeping us bunched together.
The rescue ships are still a week or so out. The trajectories from the earth launch pads take a lot longer to line up. I think we’re all talking to loved ones back home. I can see patient faces illuminated by the screens of monitors when I have my external camera zoomed out and pointed at one of those thick pressure restraining windows. Yeah, we’ll get rescued eventually. We’re not worried. The lag has made us patient. Marie has moved back in front of her screen and is telling me about her day, or a day she had a week or so ago. Apparently, the movers broke her desk when they switched her office again, but she’s not angry. The lag has made us patient.
by submission | Mar 29, 2013 | Story |
Author : David Burkhart
He had just sat down when he felt a soft touch on his shoulder and then heard a voice near his ear saying “D-d-dance with me Henry”. He looked around at two strange eyes and said, “Get away from me, you freak!”. He twisted his glass free from the dingy sticky table and took a big swig of what was advertised to be Rigelian rum. Although the drink was absolutely the worst thing he had ever tasted, he ordered another one. After all, what could one expect at the only bar within two light-months distance.
She walked around the table, sat down opposite him, leaned forward and put her elbows on the table, cradled the sides of her face in her hands, and stared into his eyes. “I lub you.” she said. “Go away. You got a screw loose or something. I mean it. Look, you’re dripping oil all over the table. Go get fixed or something.” he replied.
“Sohry. Jesus died for you.” she said.
“No he didn’t. He is still out at the mine working his butt off. Go away.” he replied.
“OK Charlie” she said reluctantly. As she walked away with an uneven lurch in her step, he began to have second thoughts. After all the next bar was far away and she didn’t look that bad. A few more rum drinks and she would probably be the best-looking babe on this side of the galaxy even if she was leaking oil.
“Hey, aren’t you that singer?” he called after her. She turned and answered with a big smile “G-g-guys usually call me Beautiful. Dance with me Henry.”
Sure, why not dance, he thought as he chugged another rum drink. So he put an arm around her oily waist and away they danced. Or at least tried to dance. He, with a few rum drinks under his belt, and she, with some kind of a loose gear problem causing her uneven lurches. Mostly they kept trying to free their feet from gunk on the floor. And where there wasn’t floor gunk, there were Beautiful’s oily spots on the floor to avoid.
Even with their problems, they managed to perform a fairly respectable dance. There wasn’t any music except for Beautiful singing. Her singing was better than her dancing. Beautiful had been built as an elite class A singer and dancer for some very rich dude. Several years ago, she was seriously damaged during a rough landing on this asteroid. Instead of taking Beautiful all the way back to Earth for repairs, the rich guy sold her as is to the local barkeep. She has been singing and dancing with the barkeep’s customers ever since.
Henry put his arm around her, pulled her close, and started to kiss her. “H-h-hey! Take it easy cowboy! What kind of an android do you think I am? Have another drink.” she said as she pushed him away. Henry had several more drinks as he contemplated why females were always so difficult to understand.
by submission | Mar 28, 2013 | Story |
Author : Bronwyn Seward
“I-, I-, want….you to die my boy.”
“Famous last words, eh Grandpa?”
My father’s father fidgeted under the covers, twisting his toes with creaking bones. A shaky hand reached for mine, as I jutted away from it.
“Come here, don’t be afraid now.”
Pawing closer, the shriveled, weather-beaten hand with mangled nails grabbed a hold of my freshly polished mitt. An almost-pleasant warmth from his tenderness hit me first, and then chills tickled my spine as I noticed that his sweat smudged the luminosity from my extremity.
“This world’s made you eh….hard Jimmy.” Knocking on my chrome encased bicep, he cackled until it turned into a dry cough. “You ain’t the same as you used to be.”
“Ha ha, you bet I’m not. And thank God I’m not, otherwise I’d be where you are in fifty years. I’ll never understand why you didn’t do it Grandpa. You are probably the last man to die. You’ll go in the record books as a fool, I tell ya.”
“Of course you don’t understand….and won’t, my boy. You can’t think straight anymores. The little Jimmy that used to make me taste all his food before he bit into them, thinking they might be poisonous is gone. You ain’t him. You just have his thoughts, but he’s gone.”
He frustrated me when he brought up old stories of my weakness and inadequacy. Times had changed, sure I wasn’t that little kid anymore, heck I didn’t even look like him. I didn’t even have his body anymore, but what am I to do with a decaying and decrepit body, waste away? I still was me, there was nothing artificial about me, my soul was intact but my body was gone. Did that make me any less of a person?
“We can throw these old stories and jokes back n’ forth for centuries on end. There’s really nothing to lose, it’s not even painful. Just upload your mind onto the Genex software-”
“That’s a death in itself. Life ain’t the same when kept in a metal cage . Look at you, talking all smart, you’re the fool, ain’t yourself anymore. You’re all metal, cold to the touch, cold to others, plain cold, cold, cold. I don’t think you feel anything other than coldness anymore.”
“Gramps I only feel the good stuff, the pleasant sensations, and the best memories. I can picture grandma as if she were here right now.”
“You’re grandma’s dead, son, her and her body. Why would I just want the memory? You’re a computer, a programmed computer, that’s all you are.”
“No I’m not! Look I’ll show you your Jimmy–” I flashed open my chest cavity to reveal my inner core, a labyrinth of wires, cords, and a piercing light, my life force, never threatening to fade, pulsing through me, an evolved specimen. Inside the machine, my soul on display within a robotic frame.
He curled away from the electricity, with a gasping voice he wheezed “Eh, you creepy robot, keep your clothes on. There ain’t nothing normal or glorious about that. You’ve stripped yourself of anything that sets us apart from those old televisions and computer things. Only thing that makes you my grandson is your name.”
I raised my hand at him. Still out of breath he whispered “You’re half dead. I want you to die my boy….” His hand went limp and then fell off my polished fingers, now empty. Both thoughts and emotions evaded me, all I could feel was cold.
by submission | Mar 27, 2013 | Story |
Author : Townsend Wright
The young tech analyzed her monitor. Her blue uniform was worn loosely among her personal gothic choice of clothing which was oddly fitting of the dark, blue-lit, organic looking room they were in. “Download complete. Ready any time officers.”
Browner checked the watch on his eye-screen, 9:08 pm. “Ready, Owen?”
“Any time, Dom. Go ahead, flesher lady.”
The tech pushed the necessary buttons on her monitor and the gingerbread man-shaped vat of white goo in front of them began to bubble. “Genetic encoding: good. Cell differentiation: good. Cell formation, with cerebral encoding: good. And…wakey, wakey.”
The vat erupted in a jerky blob which after the runoff of goo reveal itself as a swarthy middle aged man frantically gasping for breath as he sat naked covered in ooze.
“Arthur Green?” asked Dom. The man nodded harshly in response, sending drops of goo flying out of his hair. “I’m detective Dominique Browner, this is my partner, Police Android unit O-N 17.”
“My friends call me Owen. Can you speak, buddy?”
“Where am I? What am I doing here?”
“That’s a yes,” Owen joked.
“Mr. Green, I’m sorry to inform you that you have been the victim of a homicide,” Dom said in accordance with protocol.
There was a pause, “Is this heaven?”
“No,” Dom continued, “this is a pod-cloning facility in Level 23 of Sub New York.”
“What am I doing here?”
“Legal maneuvering, mostly,” said Owen.
Dom brought to mind the by-the-book explanation. “You are aware that your standard neural implants record all your memories for easier personal access?” Green nodded. “According to the Brenshaw Privacy Act of 2101, it is illegal for the police to directly access any of these recorded memories, even in the case of a murder victim.”
“Now, here’s where things get good,” Owen interjected.
Dom continued, “However, it is legal for any person’s memory to be temporarily downloaded into a ‘printed’ pod clone. Such a copy can be used for questioning.”
“You mean I—”
“Was a bathtub full of stem cells two minutes ago?” Owen interrupted, “Yep.”
“What is the last thing you remember?” Dom continued.
“I—I was arguing with my wife, and then she pulled out a kitchen knife and—and—”
“Ha!” Owen exclaimed, pointing mockingly at his partner, “I told you it was the wife!”
“Alright, you don’t have to brag,” Dom said. He turned to the tech, “That’s all we need.” The tech pushed another button and the clone of Arthur Green reverted back into a mass of programmable white slop. “Let’s go find some evidence against her.”
The officers walked back to the elevators. “Hey, Owen?”
“Does it ever feel weird to you? Melting them like that?”
“Nah, court’s already adjourned, all we do is burn a copy of the transcript.”
“I guess you’re right. Just promise me something, Owen.”
“Don’t do that to me when I get murdered.”
“Heh heh. Don’t worry, Dom, I won’t,” the elevator doors opened and they stepped in. Owen added “Why would I kill ya’ just to make another one?”