Dear John

Author : Duncan Shields

I woke up from the deep cryosleep with a bleary head and a taste in my mouth like I’d licked a battery. The gel washed off cleanly and I was standing in the hall with the other colonists in my underwear with the HR monitors still stuck to us like faithless remoras. I looked to my left but my wife wasn’t there.

An older woman stood beside me stretching with an expansive peaceful smile on her face. The smile of the landed settler. The trip is over, the smile said, and now the hard work begins. Let’s get to it. I smiled back. I had gone under first and it was a big ship. Lisa had been put into another compartment

The lockers contained our clothes. We put them on and huddled around the monitors to get the reports on the atmosphere outside. I checked the colonist logs to see where my wife was.

The atmosphere was breathable and it was a sunny day. The doors hissed open and nearly all of us ran out with abandon and rolled around in the red flowers. Ten thousand humans played like children around the base of an iron mountain arkship in the middle of a field of alien flowers.

I didn’t. I just kept looking at the log list and at the message in my inbox. It was a message from my wife. I pressed play.

She didn’t get on the ship. She’d been seeing someone. She didn’t think that I’d understand. She was sorry that it had come to this. She didn’t think that running away together would solve the problems we had. She had added her fare to mine so that I’d have more points over in the new land and be a desirable mate. She was staying home.

I think I played it back three times. I let it sink in. Outside I could hear the whooping and yelling of people born again in a new world. Tears crawled down my face. She had seen me to my compartment. My last memory of her was watching her put her jacket in the locker next to mine. It had been a ruse to let me sleep easy.

I’d been asleep at over light speed for months.

The message was nearly five hundred years old.

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Guilt by Association (Youthful Indiscretion)

Author : Jinque

Eoin dropped his bag in the hallway, and turned into his living room. His computer was nowhere to be seen.

“Caprice, I’m home. Where are you?” Eoin’s computer poked her head over the top of his favourite chair.

“I’m right here, Master Eoin! Welcome home!”

Eoin smiled, and walked over, nudging Caprice out of his chair. “Thanks. Have you got those reports on the revolutionaries? I know we did some research…”

“I have all of them, Master Eoin.”

“Excellent. Now, you can read them for me while I think. This paper is due in two days, and it’s important; forty-five percent of my final grade!”

After a while, Caprice turned to him.

“Master Eoin, want to see something neat?”

“Sure. Whatcha got?”

“I found music you like!” On the screen in front of them, a playlist popped up, and a heavy metal song started playing . Seeing his reaction, Caprice clapped, and giggled. “I have more! See?” She pointed to the screen. Thousands and thousands of song titles began scrolling by, just a little too fast to read.

“There’s no way we can afford all that! We’ll have nothing left!” Eoin cried out.

“It was free, don’t worry!”

Eoin was pulling his hair out. His computer was a pirate.

“Caprice,” he muttered, “What else do you have in there?”

“Nothing, Master. I promise.” Caprice turned to the screen, disengaging the music library, and pulling up the report files again. “Let’s continue…”

Someone knocked at the door. Caprice unhooked herself from the plasma, and went to open it.

An explosion of shouting and black uniforms flooded the room. Caprice screamed, and as Eoin whipped around, he saw her being tackled to the floor by two officers. “Don’t stun her! She’s a computer!”

“We know!” The smaller officer barked. The two men on the floor wrestled with Caprice, and Eoin lunged.

“Don’t touch her!” A third officer approached him, and held up a clipboard with a central government seal on it. “Mr. Hayslip, Your TriTek personal assistant, model 119/b is being taken offline. Large illicit data transfers have been traced to her IP. As far as our techs can ascertain, she has illegally downloaded music, software, and tools related to the bypassing of program security measures.”

Eoin took one look at Caprice, who looked back at him, her face expressionless.

The officer took the top sheet from the clipboard and handed it to Eoin. “We hereby sentence your 119/b ‘Caprice’, to three months enforced downtime. My officers are inserting a device to prevent boot-up. Any attempt to remove it will permanently damage her hard drive. No data, apart from the illegal files will be lost. It’s all on the ticket.” He turned back to his comrades. “All done?”

“Yessir.” The larger of the pair on the floor reached up behind Caprice’s decorative headgear, and found her switch, which was located just behind her ear. “Shutting down…” Caprice stiffened, and her eyes dulled, still fixed on Eoin.

“Goodnight, Master…”

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Ghosts of Earth

Author : Curtis C. Chen

The first crystal fell on Los Angeles in the middle of rush hour, killing thirty-two people. Caltrans spent an hour trying to move the enormous mass before it drilled itself into the ground and disappeared.

Two hours later, another crystal splashed into the Pacific Ocean. The Navy sent a submarine to track it, but they couldn’t go deep enough. Three hours after that, another one hit the Pacific. Then a fourth crystal struck the ocean south of Japan, flooding the coast.

Someone noticed that all four impacts had occurred on the same line of latitude, proceeding west. Governments evacuated cities while the bombardment continued, every three hours, like clockwork: China, Iraq, Algeria, the Atlantic Ocean, South Carolina. Then the tenth crystal impacted off the coast of Mexico. They were moving south.

NASA triangulated the origin of the crystals to a point outside the Moon’s orbit. Observatories all over the planet turned their lenses that way, but saw nothing. The ship was too small to be visible at that range.

We had no vessels that could reach that far. All we could do was evacuate, and attempt to study the crystals, which we were so far unable to halt or slow as they burrowed underground.

Five days later, the last of the crystals fell into the Pacific, west of central Peru. There were now one hundred and eight crystals embedded deep in the Earth, arranged in a precise grid circling the equatorial region of our planet. The aliens had parked their ship in space and let Earth rotate each target into position for them.

Eight different research teams had crawled down the crystal tunnels. Two teams were broadcasting live video when the crystals began burning. Again, we could only watch, helpless.

The world burned for nearly a year. Most of the plant and animal life died within the first day. The crystals weren’t just raising the temperature– they were also causing chemical changes, using the planet as raw material to terraform itself.

The aliens waited a decade before landing, to let their new vegetation and prey animals grow. The few humans who had managed to survive, in Antarctica and other frozen places, were slowly suffocated by the toxic atmosphere. We mourned them, but only briefly. We still have work to do.

The crystal fire had killed our bodies, but freed our minds– some say souls, or spirits. We don’t entirely understand it, but we know that we’re still here. We can see everything. And we can do things.

We watched the aliens land, and sent scouts to verify that they couldn’t sense us. Creating six billion angry ghosts had not been part of their invasion plan.

They use electronics, just as we did, and we’ve found that our incorporeal forms can directly affect electrical systems. A million physicists, no longer restrained by language barriers, are devising a plan to sabotage whatever the aliens do next.

We’re betting that they won’t want to live on a haunted planet.

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Historical Writing

Author : David Zhou

“My card,” he said, bowing gracefully to the client from Tarqon, the fifth planet in the Tostis system out in the deep reaches of the Spiraling Galaxy.

“I want to thank you,” the client said. “Thank you for taking on this job. They said you were the only one who could — who would do it.”

“That I am, my friend. I’m a historical writer. I write history. And for this sum, I will write your history.”

The man handed his client a slip of paper with a number on it. It was not small.

“This sum is acceptable. Barely. How would you like payment?”

“Oh, I’ll take care of it,” said the man lightly. “I’ll take it out while I’m writing your history. You won’t even notice it’s not there. Because it won’t be there. You know. Causality and all that.”

The client nodded slowly. “So you have it? Our history? What we want?”

“Yes, yes. You want to win the Sixth War of Independence. You want to ensure that a Seventh cannot, and did not, happen. And as a personal favor, a freebie if you will, you will have married Willemena of Erustis in your thirtieth year.”

“Yes, that’s right. The outline we gave you has more detailed notes. The dates of events, the order we would like them in. And Willemena’s address at that point.”

“Got it.”

The man started to turn away. He stopped for a moment. “Don’t worry, it’ll be quick. You won’t even know it’s happening.”

“I hope so,” said the client.

“You can’t, really. Notice. It’s how it works. One moment Tarqon is suffering from a drought of freedom, and the next, Tarqon will be independent, and you’ll wake up with Willemena in your arms and by your side. Sides. However you people engage in such acts.”

The client smiled. “Good luck, then.”

The man grinned. And started towards the gateway.

“Um, one question.”

The man turned, eyebrows raised.

The client hesitated and then spoke. “With all of your writing, how do you know that you’ll still exist? I mean, what if you change yourself?”

The man laughed. And grinned again. “My friend, I don’t worry about that. I like what I do.”

“So?”

“I have supreme confidence that whatever set of choices I have to make, I’ll make the ones that lead to historical writing.”

He turned and entered the gateway.

“Besides, I’m too good at this.”

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Pride In Chains

Author : J.R.Blackwell, Staff Writer

“Are we slaves?” said Marixix, sliding out of Lilria’s slick bed. “Or do we freely choose our lives?”

Lilria rolled over onto her side, admiring her lovers muscular naked back. “Ooooo…Such deep inquiry directly after our ‘little deaths.'”

Marixix turned and bowed to Lilria. “It is when my mind seems clearest.”

Lilria blushed and slipped a silk shift over slender body. “Do not confuse your pride with chains. You toss the word of slave too easily. You are free to leave the service, a slave would not be free to go as he pleases.”

“You are bound by words too easily.”

“Maybe.” said Lilria, gracefully stepping across the stone floor to where Marixix stood. “Why do you think you’re a slave?”

“Even though I could leave the service, I would not, because it’s what I’m good at. My genetic code has destined me to this work. I was bred to it. Why would I leave knowing my code makes me the best to be a warrior of first rank?”

She put her small hands on his large, tattooed arm. “There are other professions. You would be an excellent martial instructor.”

“I would be good, but not great. Would you leave your job as chief librarian and become a hostess at a brothel?”

Lilria backed away from him. “Are you saying that my work is that of a whore? Is that how you see me?”

“No. I never said-”

“You compared yourself to a slave, and your lover to a whore.” She walked to her closet and pulled on a heavy robe, crossing her arms in front of her.

“You are not a whore Lilria. I just wanted to show you that you would no more leave your work than I would. Both of us were bred to our work, and we perform it well, better than anyone else, better because they have been perfecting us over centuries.”

“That is destiny. There is still freedom in destiny.” At that moment, the sun choir that rehearsed at dawn in the great hall of the library started to sing. The lovers paused and listened to the rising voices. They were only a few doors away from the main hall, and the echo of those strong young singers came clearly, resounding off the stone walls. The chorus was singing the wordless salute to the rising sun, as the first light touched the great stairs of the library. Marixix found himself moved to stand next to Lilria. He put his arms around her waist and she leaned back onto his chest.

Marixix spoke softly. “Do you think that every time they breed us, making little tweaks, do you think we choose each other every time?”

“I don’t know. I don’t think so. My predecessor was not me. We are different.”

“I think you would know if we did. You are a record keeper, your predecessor would keep some record of it.”

She squeezed his hands in hers. “It is against the rules for warrior class and scholar class to have relations. If anyone found out, we would be exiled. All my predecessors had a spotless record, no suspicion ever touched them. Besides, we may have a destiny, but love cannot be scripted. I knew my predecessor, she raised me, and she had no relations with the warrior class.” Five generations the chief librarians had loved five generations of first rank warriors.

“If we are the first to have loved each other, then maybe I do have freedom, slight as it is, to choose my own way.”

Lilria turned to face him, reaching her hands up to his face. “You are free to stay or leave me, as you will.”

His dreadlocks fell down over his shoulders as he leaned close to her. “I will never leave you. I will love you till I am killed in battle.” They kissed and Lilria willed herself to believe him in that moment. She knew about the records. If this one lived another year, he would leave her. But Lilria was different from her predecessors; she could will herself not to cry.

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Coincidental Probability

Author : B. York, Staff Writer

Being in a think tank wasn’t easy. Dev never saw it as easy but he lived it because of his pursuit for the perfect equation. Life in pursuit of such a grand dream was not without its quirks however.

No one could have predicted the probability of Dev’s broken arm and how he’d been hit with a shiny purple Cadillac not two days prior. Certainly no soul under God would have seen that driving such a thing was a nun.

Bones heal, however, and God forgives nuns who hit skinny, weak mathematicians with their cars.

It would have been a forgotten case if both the tires of the ambulance bringing him to the hospital and the tires of the cab bringing him home were not similar in the fact that they blew out (yes, all four) simultaneously each trip. Hospitals have extra ambulances, however, and cab drivers can swear themselves into four new tires.

What happened next would send poor Dev into near psychosis as he sought to figure out the exact probability one would have of a Czechoslovakian Spy Satellite falling into their room and on their bed when one was away buying groceries. The numbers were mind-boggling.

Despite all this, Dev would continue his work to find the perfect formula, the one that could help him understand the universe.

Coincidence, a known fable of mathematicians, was not yet done with the poor boy. That nun with the purple Caddy came to warn him every day of dreams she had been having, dreams of Dev being killed in some horrible manner. Everyday the logical number-cruncher would usher the nun out his door with a fear that he’d heard too many ghost stories from her to concentrate on his work. Yet, everyday she returned with renewed vigor.

Dev worked in the think tank with two roommates that he never once gave notice to beyond whether they would shell out the cash for his latest excursion to the grocery store across the street. These roommates never once asked him about the nun or about why the apartment was shut down for two weeks by NASA to extract an object of import from Dev’s room. They were good roommates blissful in their ignorance.

One day, Dev had thought of the absolute best completion for his formula on his way home. Getting home he found Sam, one of his rather reclusive roommates, standing with a gun in his hand, pointing it at Dev and standing in front of his computer.

“I tried to off you, Dev, tried to steal your formula but no… my equation was too imperfect! Finish the formula, Dev… do it and maybe I’ll take you out of the equation.” Sam cocked the gun.

“Now start typing those numbers.”

Poor, poor Dev.

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