First Contact

Author : Patricia Stewart

“Commander’s Log, Hyper-light mission Alpha-one, Ship’s chronometer, Day 23,: Commander Adelmann reporting. The Tycho Brahe has completed another uneventful day. We are currently 7.1 light years from Earth. All systems are operating in the green. However, earlier today, during routine maintenance, Lieutenant DeHennis experienced a minor injury while attempting…”

Just then, the ship dropped out of warp, and all systems shut down. The entire ship was pitch-black. Even the independent emergency power did not function. However, there was a barely detectable blue haze visible outside the ship. That’s when Commander Adelmann noticed the menacing looking alien spacecraft floating 50 feet beyond the forward viewing ports. The alien ship launched a grappling cable that slammed into the hull. Almost instantly, the main computer came on-line. A few minutes later, a disembodied voice began to speak over the intercom. “Translating protocol initiated…click…please stand by…click…click…State your system of origin and destination.”

Under the circumstances, Commander Adelmann thought it was best to cooperate. “Uh, Earth. I mean Sol. We’re headed to Tau Ceti.”

“Do you know why your ship was deactivated?”

“Uh, because you wanted to make First Contact?”

“Negative. Your ship was flying at warp 1.1 in a non-designated area, your identification transponder is not functioning, and your warp field is not dampened…click…please stand by…click…click…Sir, Sol is in the Sirius Sector, but this ship is not registered. Please state your Sirius Department of Transportation Pilot Identification Number.”

“Identification Number? I don’t think I have one. This is the first manned mission outside of our solar system. I didn’t know…”

“Sir, are you saying that you are unaware that all warp corridors are either radial, at one degree intervals extending from the galactic black hole, or circumferential, at concentric intervals ten parsec apart? Are you also unaware that transponders are needed to identify and track ships in hyperspace?”

“Warp corridors? Transponders?”

“Sir, you cannot warp randomly around the galaxy. There are 14 quintillion spacecraft registered in this quadrant. If you don’t follow the designated corridors at the specified warp limits, you risk a collision with your fellow travelers, especially if you are not transmitting your spatial spherical coordinates. Surely sir,…click…You didn’t think you were the only one out here, did you?”

“Well…”

“In addition, sir…click…by warping through a non-designated area, you have caused damage to the Cetus amino-acid fields. I’m afraid…click…that your ship will have to be impounded. I will…click…activate you life support and communication systems. You will wait here until a tow-craft comes and takes you to Sirius Station. Your ship will be released when it is brought up to code, properly registered, and all fines and damages are paid. Your passengers can book transportation back to…click…Earth. However, you, sir, will have to be detained. The Magistrate…click…will want to talk with you. Since this is your species first offence, you will probably get…click…probation.”

“Probation? But…”

“I’m sorry, sir. If you have any…click…complaints, you’ll have to take it up with the Magistrate. In the future sir, please use only designated warp corridors, and…click…obey all warp limits…click…click…and sir…click…have a nice day…click.”

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Back From Outer Space

Author : B.York, Staff Writer

The trick is to never underestimate the power of normal. One has to believe that everyday life can somehow bring wondrous adventures because of its unpredictable nature. If this effort fails in the mind then the heart can never be happy. –Oxford’s Guide to Happiness Amongst the Stars

Javier Marx was trying his best to remember these things from the guide when his shuttle arrived at Newfoundland Spaceport in August. Earth was a blue dot in his memory and he hadn’t been able to shake the idea of returning to settle in a gravity bubble during the last three months of his tour.

“Fourteen years…” He muttered to himself as the re-entry began to flash against the outer hull. Fourteen years had passed since he stopped moving. This would be his final stop at the ripe Earth age of 43. Javier thought silently to himself if this was a mistake. He thought about the multitudes of wonders he had seen and experienced outside of a globe.

Javier wondered about a life he’d have to get used to again. This thought was compounded by artificial gravity shut down as they entered atmosphere. He felt the real push of his weight and almost became sick. Most people couldn’t tell the difference or even notice when one switched to the other. Not Javier. He felt the way the balanced pressure became almost rounded when it switched to natural gravity. It was all he could do to not get ill at the feeling almost as if he despised it.

The shuttle doors opened after arrival and the man from space exited with the other more content humans with nothing but a vac-bag strapped over his shoulder. Bags looked better after being caught in the wake of a meteor. This one had traveled with him for the entirety of his adventures and now to end here at Newfoundland Spaceport.

Masses of people walked around, greeting their families and their friends here. The cries of joy and laughter rang in his ears and yet he preferred one thing to din of it all: the silence of space. His brow was moist with sweat and he could feel his muscles ache from the balance of solid ground.

It was then he glanced up to see his family. His wife and children had all smiles broadening as they recognized his features. They waited just beyond the orbital glass gates to celebrate his arrival.

Javier looked down at the weathered bag and glanced to the shop to his left where he had bought his first. He took a glance back to his wife in a look that turned her smile into a face ready for tears. It could be made out from the movement of her lips that she protested his decision greatly. With a smile he mouthed “I’m sorry” and stepped quickly into the store.

“How much for one of these?” He asked the clerk while pointing to a bag of the exact model as his own on display.

“Fourteen Credits, sir…” The well-dressed clerk smiled as he gladly accepted Javier’s credits, watching him empty the old bag into the new one.

Turning his back on the globe he went for the terminal desk. “One ticket please” he said in confidence to the lady standing behind the computer.

“Your destination, sir?”

Javier smiled to himself, tossing the old bag in the garbage disposal unit next to the desk. The sweat had already begun to subside upon his face as he thought of weightlessness again. “Doesn’t matter… just as long as it’s a journey to somewhere.”

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Colonists

Author : Dr. Alexanders

The world did not snap back into focus for Jenna, but rather came in dribbles. The first sensation to return was the feeling of the restraining harness digging into her shoulders and pins and needles running through her extremities as the hibernation state wore off. Sound came next, the gentle hum and hiss of air processors and the array of electronic equipment that had been crammed into the capsule and had probably returned to life only hours before the processes designed to bring her out of deep sleep had begun. Vision was the last to return, the muscles controlling her eyelids would not work at first and several hours must have been spent completely conscious but unable to see or move.

During those hours, fear, excitement, and anxiety battled for dominance. Jenna was a part of a colonization mission; one of ten million colonists tightly packed into a dozen long range barges. They had been placed into hibernation as the trip had been scheduled to take more than 2,000 years traveling across the galaxy at a quarter of the speed of light. A small crew would have been awoken once they arrived at their new home. This crew would have confirmed the suitability of the planet’s chemistry and then sterilized the surface from orbit of any microbes that might have developed.

Once the planet was properly prepped, hundreds of thousands of seed capsules would have been crashed into the planet’s surface containing raw organic material, genetically engineered and programmed to evolve rapidly so that after a few thousand years the surface would be covered in a wide variety of native plants and desired animal species from Jenna’s home world. The evolutionary process would cause some slight differences, but it would also allow the species to modify themselves to be able to cope with the slight chemical differences of the planet. During this process the crew would have returned to hibernation. A handful of scientists would be awoken every hundred years or so to check on the evolutionary process. When the desired state had been reached a series of retroviruses would be introduced in order to slow the evolutionary pace to its normal rate and then the homestead pods containing the hibernating colonists would be launched and guided down to their landing sites.

When Jenna finally opened her eyes, she completed the last step of the initial colonization: the introduction of human life to this new planet. She could see that something was terribly wrong. A haze of old smoke drifted through the capsule, kept from her by the apparently still functioning filter on her hibernation capsule. Only the emergency lighting, which emitted a dim red glow, and occasional sparks from the console on the other side of the room enabled her to see that most of the other twenty hibernation capsules had been cracked open and now contained desiccated corpses.

Not everyone else was dead though. She could see into the capsule next to hers where Kieran was struggling with weakened muscles to operate the emergency release on his capsule, and tears were streaming down his face.

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506 Kelvin

Author : S. Clough

Five hundred and six degrees Kelvin is the temperature our burners need to reach. The tech boys designed them to burn at one thousand and seventy three. The operating temperature keeps going up and up: they seem to see it as a challenge. Anyway. We were heading back along the ninth princeway when it happened. The truck stopped, and swerved off the road, accelerating. Control had jacked our truck from the meat driver and some damn kid was joyriding us as fast as possible towards a presumably important assignment.

Well, the bit about the kid might be an exaggeration. But that’s what it feels like – that sort of reckless abandon you see kids play their games with. Not minding about the odd dent or the rough jump because they won’t feel it, and the damage will be gone by the next round. We buckled down and rode it out. We figured we arrived at our destination when the truck did a screeching right hand turn, nearly rolling, before pulling to a halt. We barrelled out of the back, burners readied. We had pulled up outside a pair of buildings: a farmhouse and a barn. People were streaming out of the barn, some towards us, and some away.

Liz and Patrick broke away to the right, quickly catching up with, and knocking down any of the escapees that were carrying boxes. They were the prize, not the people. They let the rest of them run away. The few who had approached us were obviously belligerent in their attitudes. Most were waving cudgels, although one or two had illegal firearms in their hands. Acts of aggression against Civil Protection troops is treason anyways, so we got rid of them all. Frank’s right burner misfired, though, so he ended up just punching one of them until he stopped trying to attack. Poor sod will probably have to repair it out of his own paycheck.

We collected all the contraband around the houses. Lee knocked one of the walls of the farmhouse in, just for good measure. He said he thought that there might be a secret compartment, although I reckon that was just for the benefit of the tape. That boy likes destruction a little too much. But he is in the right line of work to get plenty of it.

We had collected all the cases in the centre of the barn, and since I was Duty, I was about to put fire to them.

This was Lee’s first real hit. And in a flagrant breach of all our protocol, he stepped in front of me, and opened one of the cases. He picked up one of the objects from inside, tore off the opaque plastic which covered it, and stared. He tried to open the book with his heavily gloved hands, but just managed to tear the cover and the first few pages off.

“Wha…?” he mouthed.

Frank heaved him out of the way, and I put fire to the pile.

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Stop

Author : Steve Smith, Staff Writer

He drifted his coupe into the corner from the feeder street onto Avenue E at an easy pace, climbing from the lower flats in a series of calculated upturns before slipping into the relative obscurity of the middle tiers.

Commuters and couriers flitted about below, dodging in and out of traffic to make deliveries or dropping into the parking slips below the pedestrian levels.  Above were the lumbering giants, observing the altitude restrictions that kept the transports from entering the city streets as they hauled cargo between the industrial zones.  There was no traffic in the middle flats, and the slick little sportster begged to be let out to run. Always ready to oblige the adrenaline pull, Max pushed the throttle up, feeling his seat stiffen behind his back as the little craft flung itself uptown.

Two more lane changes towards the clouds put him in the upper levels of the Atriums at Avenue E and 133rd Street. Six levels of open space and greenery  occupied both corner buildings, with the upper two levels offering a clear view of 133rd in both directions.  Easing the throttle back only slightly, Max scanned up and down the street before rolling into a sharp left bank and powering through the corner, rising up a flat in the process.  Heart racing he pushed the throttle again, picking up speed as 133rd Street slipped by like liquid beneath his seat.

A sudden flashing of blue and red light filled the interior, erasing the thrill of the moment and replacing it instead with sudden and intense anxiety.  He hadn’t seen the cruiser, it must have been higher up, but there was no doubt that it had seen him.  Following the expected protocol, Max pulled up to a stationary platform at the side of an office tower, and watched as the uniformed figure climbed out of the cruiser behind him and approached.  He lowered his window, hanging one arm down the door while resting the other over the steering column.  A helmeted face appeared before him, a uniformed body reflected in the surface of the featureless office tower behind her.  Max listened to the voice from the helmet, but couldn’t help watching the reflection of her uniform pants in the mirrored window.

‘Do you know why I pulled you over today Mr. Sidenham?’

Max wasn’t used to strangers calling him by name, but he knew she’d had every trivial detail about him at her fingertips the moment she’d tagged him with the violation.

‘Lonely?’ he smiled up at her charmingly, but quickly followed with ‘No, I’m sure I’ve got no idea why you’d want to stop me, officer’ It was clear she wasn’t amused.

‘You failed to stop your vehicle before turning from the Avenue onto 133rd.  That’s a violation of your transit agreement.’

‘I’m sure you’re mistaken, I’m positive I stopped there…’ again the smile, maybe he couldn’t joke with her, but he could sure as hell charm her, chicks dug him, he could tell.

‘I think you’ll find if we subpoena your nav, you did not stop at that intersection Mr. Sidenham.  Are you going to argue with me?’  The tone of her voice should have warned him to stop there, but Max wasn’t one to listen to how a woman talked to him.

‘Oh, come on now, I’m sure I slowed down at least, there was no one else for 10 flats up or down.  I’m a busy guy, what do you say we just let me off with a warning.’ His white teeth shone from ear to ear. ‘Can’t we just forget about this sweetheart?’

‘You may have slowed down, but you didn’t stop.  You are required to stop at all intersections, that’s in your transit agreement.’  Her tone was icy, she wasn’t anyone’s ‘sweetheart’, least of all this disrespectful little shit.

‘Stop, slow down, what’s the difference?’ Max continued to smile what he was sure was his most disarming smile.  He was still smiling that smile, at least for a moment, when she pinned his forearm against the door of his coupe with her shock baton.  He only had a moment to see her thumb the trigger before his arm exploded in a white hot jolt of pain, his fist clenching without conscious input, then slowly opening as the energy left his arm.

‘What the hell was…ugh…’.  Again she thumbed the trigger, and again he writhed in agony, his arm pinned firmly as the rest of him twitched in his seat.

‘You can’t fu…aargg…’. Another blast of pain cut him off in mid sentence, and he was only momentarily aware of spit dripping from his open mouth before he was blinded by another white hot blast.

He slumped in his seat, hearing her words drift in through the post-electric haze.

‘Now, sweetheart, would you like me to stop, or slow down?’

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The Promise

Author : J.R. Blackwell, Staff Writer

Minister Christof glowed with pure thoughts. His halo seemed even brighter inside the restaurant than out in the noon sun. The more Godly the thought, the brighter the flame burned. Levi admired his father’s ability to keep his thoughts pure, he was glad there was no halo around his head.

The waitress tugged down on her skirt as she led them to a booth by large bay windows. Levi picked up a menu, already looking forward to his usual birthday treat. Christof plucked the menu out of Levi’s hands and put it aside.

“Son, before we order, I’d like to talk to you. You’re sixteen today, and I think you’re ready to have this conversation with me. Recently I’ve noticed that you have been paying a lot of attention to the networks.”

“Sorry Dad.” Levi clasped his hands together in front of him, twisting his fingers.

“Don’t hang your head like that. There is no reason to be ashamed. Young people are naturally attracted to shared experience. It’s perfectly normal for you to be interested in how other people think and feel.”

“It’s okay?” Levi looked up at his father. Even without the neural-implant-halo lighting his head, Minister Christof would be a striking figure. The black minister’s shirt and crisp white collar did nothing to conceal his former-linebacker physique.

Christof’s halo glowed with yellow flame. “I want you to feel comfortable talking to me about your thoughts on the network and memory sharing. It’s important that you can tell me what your peers are doing and what you are doing yourself.”

“I guess I have been thinking about it. Other people at school are exchanging memories, mostly of concerts and stuff.” Levi shrugged and looked out the window at the lake. Geese were setting onto the placid water. Levi wondered how many of them were real and how many were robots. “Sometimes I think it doesn’t seem that bad to share.”

“You’re right son, it doesn’t seem bad at first but it becomes bad very quickly. It’s a slippery slope from sharing a concert to sharing a spiritual experience with God. When you share your memory, you are sharing your emotional reaction, your body, your soul. It’s an intimate experience. What you remember is God’s plan for you, what happens to you is for you alone, and later, for a life-mate.”

“Did you ever share with other people, I mean, other than mom?”

“When I was young, I shared a lot and tampered with my own memories.” A red crackle pulsed around his halo, chased by a white flame. “I even ditched the memory of my first relationship. Now I regret doing that because when I was born again and reloaded from save I found that I repeated a lot of mistakes I made in that first relationship. I could have avoided those mistakes if I had my memories to warn me and keep me safe.” Minister Christof leaned forward, resting his elbows on the table. “God gives us experiences that become part of our soul. When we share memories with other people, we are sharing our soul with them. I share with your mother, but I waited until we were married. We were tempted to share when we were dating, but we knew it was wrong. Now, I’m glad we waited.”

“I haven’t ever shared with anyone dad. I promise.”

“I know you haven’t son, and I think that takes a lot of restraint and courage. I know that your peers must be sharing memories though public ports or even through ports their parents have given them.”

Levi blushed. “Don’t worry Dad; I always stay away from the public ports.”

Minster Christof leaned back in his seat, crossing him arms. “I bet a lot of kids have their own ports, don’t they.”

“Most of the kids at school have their own ports.”

“I realize you may feel jealous that they get to store and retrieve memory whenever they want, but your mother and I felt that giving you a port would be too much of a temptation at an early age, do you understand?”

“Yeah, I guess. It’s just that it would be nice to review a lecture or a concert or something.”

“You must trust that your mother and I are trying to follow God’s will for you.”

“I know.”

“And that’s why we’ve both decided to give you a port of your own.”

Levi’s eyes widened. “Really?”

Minister Christof pulled his briefcase onto the table and opened it, pulling out a small velvet box. “You are sixteen years old today and I trust you to make the right choices. This is a time when we are making a commitment to your future family, to only share with them and to keep your memory pure.” Inside the box was a sliver ring, glittering with impatient nano connections. “This is your memory ring. As soon as you put it on it will record all of your memories. When you get married, you can give it to your life mate and it will share your memories from this moment onward. Go ahead, put it on.”

Levi took the box his hand’s shaking. He took out the ring, hoping he wouldn’t drop it and slid it on his finger. He felt a tingle in his spine. “Wow.”

“Take my hands, lets have the first memory your life mate has for you as a prayer.” Levi obediently took his fathers hands and closed his eyes, following to his father’s low voice. “As you wear this ring, please remember what God intends for the experiences he blesses you with, and to give you the courage and restraint to keep these memories sacred, and to only share them with your future life mate.”

“Amen.”

Levi opened his eyes. “Amen.”

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