The Star Prince

Author : J.R.Blackwell, Staff Writer

Lucias XI, the Star Prince, son of Byron II, the Merchant King, threw open the double doors to the marble war room. His demeanor was fierce, his face chiseled, displaying no emotion. His wiry body was tense, coiled. He pointed as he stomped into the room, his heels clicking against the marble.

“Minister Holt, please explain the meaning of this!” He waved his hand, and in his palm there appeared a miniature version of the emerald robed Minister.

Holt’s voice was smooth in the recording. “The Prince has, not a wife, but a monster, their union an abomination-” The Prince closed his palm, his breath coming hard.

Holt bowed. “Has the Parliament revoked the freedom of safe expression act, my Lord? ”

“I expect that my enemies will attack my personal life Minister, but from my friends-”

“Nothing of your life is personal my Lord, nothing.”

“My marriage was a public arrangement, my enjoyment of my wife’s company is private.”

“Not when that enjoyment endangers your life!”

The Prince whirled, turning to the assembled Generals. “You are dismissed. Minister Holt and I are about to have words.” The Generals filed out. The Prince calmed his breathing, his gloved hand unclenching slowly. A strand of purple hair, royal purple, the symbol of his royalty fell over his hazel eyes. Tall and slim, he stood a foot taller than Holt.

The Prince looked down at the Minster through thick violet lashes. “Xixor would never hurt me.”

“There is scar on your chest, your Excellency, that says otherwise.”

“An accident.”

“Your life cannot afford accident, my lord. You are a precious resource, a finely tuned genetic triumph, your code idealized to the standards we require, as was your father and thousand mothers. Nobility obliges my Lord; you are not allowed to play dice with your life. I have only said aloud what the populace already mutters. You did not see what we saw lord, for you were unconscious, but the four world saw your limp, bleeding body in the arms of a black oily beast, claws streaked with your blood, that’s what the people saw, and we must answer to their concerns.”

“My wife, Minister. She is my wife.”

“An alien monster.”

“I won’t hear your xenophobia.”

“Then you will not hear the words of your people.”

“I married her so there would be understanding between our people and hers.”

“The understanding, my Lord, is that she will someday eat you. You, who we have worked so hard to design.”

The Star Prince leaned against the wall, his head resting against the marble. “I love her Holt.” He ran a hand across his chest. “What she did, that was how she shows her affection toward me. I was built to be a prince of reason, of diplomacy.”

Holt hung his head. “We built you too well.”

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Just Like Everyday

Author : Steven Holland

You awake; the familiar smell of synthetic, processed food greets you. The pneumatic tube has delivered three packages of food. They contain artificial eggs, sausage, and pancakes today, just like every day. You, Stackhouse, and Sergeant Zimmerman begin your breakfast. It’s the three of you today, just like everyday.

As you eat, it never occurs to you that you can’t remember a time when you didn’t live in this room, eating the same food with the same two men. You never question why you are being kept in this large, featureless room. The room houses bunk beds, exercise equipment, several couches, two ping pong tables, and one locked door. The dozen bunk beds, coupled with the large size of the room, suggest that 24 men could be housed here comfortably. You have often wondered why only three men need such a large room. You never once suspect that you might be being held prisoner in here. Instead, you know with confidence that you live in this room; you have always lived in this room.

The door opens at 0930 hours, just like usual. In walk four men clothed completely in white hazmat suits. They take Sergeant Zimmerman and half walk, half drag him out of the room. One of the four men mumbles something about taking him for some tests and not to be worried. They can rest easy; you’re not worried. They always take him for tests at exactly this time every day. The door closes after them with a familiar metallic hiss. This sound always triggers you to look down at your left arm. You do so as is your custom. You wonder, as always, why the half dozen needle marks peppering your upper shoulder never heal. They look exactly the same as they always have. You don’t think to ask what was injected into you. You could care less; a warm, fuzzy, and detached feeling swirls around and in your brain. This is the way you feel; this is the way you have always felt.

The rest of the day passes without incidence, exactly as it always does. You and Stackhouse entertain yourselves by lifting weights, playing ping pong, and trying to guess the exact moment when the quiet hiss of air from the pneumatic tube will announce the next meal. Lunch and dinner arrive promptly on time, each meal composed of the exact same food as the day before. The two of you don’t talk much, for there is not much to talk about. Nothing ever changes in the room. At 2200 hours, the lights shut off. You are already in bed and fall asleep immediately.

You awake; the familiar smell of synthetic, processed food greets you. The pneumatic tube has delivered two packages of food. They contain artificial hash browns, french toast, and glazed ham today, just like every day. You and Stackhouse begin your breakfast. It’s the two of you today, just like everyday.

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An Android's Story

Author : Tim Brown

The wind blew fiercely from behind him, ruffling his long chestnut colored hair and brushing it over his eyes. Absentmindedly he took his slender fingers and pushed the shoulder-length strands aside, hardly putting thought to the bellowing gales coming from the north. He should have felt the chill it was spreading over his body, should have had the hairs on his arms and legs standing on end, goose-bumps forming underneath.

Of course, he should have felt the fear of standing atop a seventy story building––on it’s edge no less. But there was nothing. No tremors; no disorientation; no fear. He held his hand out in front of his face staring blankly into his palm. Hard to believe under these thin layers of flesh and tissue something so simple lay underneath.

He glared into his palm now. His ears could practically hear the mechanized humming and clicks going on with the slightest movements of his body; the flow of data through cables and wiring (probably purchased at a local retail store). There was no mystery in here… nothing but junkyard computer parts conveniently structured in the form of a human. He tore his hand away from his eyes, the sight made him sick (if he had a stomach that could turn).

His gaze traveled downward. People––regular people were going on with their lives; not a care in the world. All different kinds. Tall; short; skinny; large. Some were walking or running, most of the others were driving or riding. Each had a different look or attitude about them. They were individuals; they were…. Unique. Hours before he had seen his ‘brothers’ and ‘sisters’, they had all looked alike, sleek, thin, beautiful, handsome; anything that had been deemed ‘pleasant upon the eyes’. He continued to watch the humans on their daily routines. His vision picked up on a child walking down the street; her mother was kneeling down, inspecting a freshly placed bandage on her knee, and placing a gentle kiss upon it.

Underneath their skin was where the mysteries began; and not just the anatomical structure. How did they come to be? What drives them on? What makes them…. Them? It was certainly more complicated than the central processor that motivated him.

He was an appliance, an experiment. Nothing more. Nobody would care for him––love him. He was a machine. Nothing more. No matter how human he looked, no matter how many emotions they could have programmed him to feel the fact remained was that he simply was not one of them.

He brought one leg forward and put his weight over. His body fell. On the way down his expression never changed, he made no more movements. He felt nothing and had no fear.

Because when he hit the ground, he would not be dead. He would simply be broken.

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Sun Surfing

Author : Duncan Shields, Staff Writer

The red vinyl of the gearshifter was warm from conducting the engine heat. I readjusted my grip on the softening plastic and aimed for the sun. This was gravity surfing at its finest.

The cab of my surfship was alive with luck trinkets. Dice from friends, small engine parts from past crashes, nicks in the windshield denoting dead surfers that I knew. Even the knob on the gearshift was a gift from Johnny Demon back when he was a star and I was a promising upstart.

He told me I had something special.

Well, he’s dead now and he must have seen something that wasn’t there because I’m now old, unfamous, and my surfing runs are cautious. It’s like these surfships are held together by will alone and my will is fading. At the beginning of a shake or a shudder, I pull back and just let myself find the easiest parabola.

The gravity well grabbed hold of me and I started the roller coaster slingshot of mathematical certainty. The trick was to do it without computers. One had to guess from experience and feel the best point in the invisible miasma of gravity to cut one’s engines and just go with it.

There came a point about halfway through the arc where even if one was to turn one’s engines on and try to carve out of the path one was on, it wouldn’t matter. The gravity of the sun was too much. It would be like trying to swim against a tidal wave back on Earth.

The light and radiation from the sun flooded the cab of my surfship. My plants were grateful and lapped it up. I always imagined them telling their plant friends back home about their exotic journeys.

Every year there were a few surfers that wrecked. There were also a few with lush endorsements that dropped out and quit while they were ahead.

And every few years, a surfer winked out.

The thing is with these ships and these shields, there are times when people approach 0.8c of light. Now and again, a surfer steps lightly across that lightspeed boundary and disappears. They wink out.

Logic dictates that they’ve been smeared into greasy atoms but I like to think that they’ve pierced reality with the nose of their ship and gone somewhere else.

This is why I pointed the nose of my ship down to the edge of the horizon for the sharpest hugging curve I’ve ever tried. This was going to be my last run, one way or the other, with one of three outcomes.

Back to earth, up to heaven, or through the fabric of space time to another place.

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Freedom Pets

Author : Grady Hendrix

Tom Rush (D-Massachusetts) squatted and hugged his Labrador-Beagle mix at the perfect angle for the camera to see just how much he loved his dog.

“Mashudu is the luckiest dog in the world and I am so proud to play a part in what has been one of the most successful and widest-reaching relief efforts in the history of this country,” he said.

“Senator, we’re three years into the Freedom Pets program and it’s been an astonishing success. How did you come up with the idea?”

“Well, Mary, I was frustrated by the situation in Africa – I think all Americans were – and while I was in New York one day the papers were talking about a breakthrough in consciousness recording and that same afternoon I saw the Statue of Liberty with its inspiring inscription, ‘Give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.’ And suddenly – eureka!”

“Not many people would make the leap you did.”

Senator Rush threw a ball for Mashudu who raced after it.

“I love that little guy. To me it was natural: Africa needed help but no one wanted some coked-up child soldier from Somalia living in their house, drinking kerosene and stabbing their neighbors. But what if the consciousness, the very essence, of that child could be downloaded into an adorable puppy or a kitten? Americans may not want to adopt a creepy little kid with death in his eyes, but a cute little puppy who holds the consciousness of that individual?” Mashudu trotted back over and dropped the ball at Senator Rush’s feet. “Who could resist?”

“Some critics have questioned the morality of this program.”

“No. I am a strong advocate for morality.”

“But some people would say that it’s wrong to transfer the consciousness of millions of Africans into pets to be adopted by Americans. What reassurances can you give them?”

“Now listen here. I have an unerring sense of right and wrong. And I can assure you that I would not be doing this if it was wrong – whoa! Whoa!”

Mashudu had leapt up and was helplessly humping the reporter’s leg.

“I think he likes you,” laughed Senator Rush as he pulled Mashudu off by his collar. “Go on, chase the ball, boy.” He said, throwing the ball again. Mashudu was off like a shot.

“But couldn’t there be a better way, Senator?”

“Millions of Africans now have a home where they are clean, fed and happy,” Senator Rush said. “And millions of Americans now have pets. Research shows that owning a pet can increase your life expectancy by up to fifteen years. That’s a win-win. It’s not a perfect system, true. A lot of ‘em run out in the street and get hit by cars. I wish that wouldn’t happen. But then again, would you really want to live in a perfect world?”

Mashudu raced back over with the ball.

“Mashudu! Are you happy, boy? Are you happy?”

Mashudu barked excitedly.

“I think that says it all,” the Senator said.

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Pinups

Author : Viktor Kuprin

“B83-1 was the human designation for the devices. We first thought the images might be related to the trigger mechanism, but it isn’t so,” explained Intelligence Reporter PLOF-873 as he followed his commander into the storage bunker. “We have the human leader of this base in custody. There is high confidence that he knows the meaning of these graphics.”

Theater-Attack Commander SKH-1032 was sick of the human race. Their fierce resistance had put the planetary invasion three cycles behind schedule. The fighting had already caused nearly irrecoverable ecological disaster. At least this base in the sector called Alaska had been captured intact. Nearly intact, anyway.

The chief interrogator greeted them as they entered the bunker. Row after row of the devices filled the room. The images had been found painted inside the maintenance plate-covers of almost all the silver-gray cylinders.

In a corner was the now-subdued base commander, Colonel Heffernan. SKH-1032 was pleased that the human was bound with metal and fabric restraints. He had learned early on to never trust humans, even those that offered cooperation.

The interrogator jerked Heffernan to the first cylinder and spoke in the human language.

“What is this?”

Heffernan looked at the cover plate’s image without reaction. “It’s a blonde.”

“A nude human female with golden-colored, dead keratinized cells surrounding its skull and groin,” PLOF-873 offered.

“Ask it about the text,” ordered SKH-103. “What does it say?”

Heffernan read the words aloud: “Bad News For Boris.”

The group moved to the next cylinder.

“And this?”

“It’s a redhead in a negligée, with great legs,” Heffernan said.

“What is the significance of her attire?”

Heffernan held back his desire to sneer and curse the aliens.

“She’s ready to go to bed.”

“You mean she is agreeable and ready for the mating act, correct?” said the interrogator.

“Yes, that is correct, that and a lot more.”

The three aliens looked at the human, puzzled.

“The text?”

“It says “Putin’ It In The Right Place.”

“Meaning what?”

“It’s a pun, a play on words. Putin was once the president of Russia, a potential enemy to the United States,” Heffernan explained.

The interrogator turned to his two superiors. “Even after the ideological rivalry between the two prominent social collectives had ended, the humans continued to maintain these devices. We don’t understand this.”

SKH-1032 grew impatient. The countless paradoxes and mysteries of the human race were tiresome, of no interest to him.

“Enough. Ask what purpose these graphics and messages served.” The interrogator did so.

Heffernan shrugged. “Purpose? To let my guys have a little fun. To improve their morale. I shouldn’t have, but I allowed it. No one but technicians and loaders saw them, and they were all men. I would have had them removed if any women had been assigned to munitions maintenance.”

“Just for entertainment. Amazing,” SKH-1032 concluded, stomping out of the bunker. “Send the human back to the pens,” he ordered.

PLOF-873 stayed behind to help close the maintenance panels of the B83-1 hydrogen bombs.

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