Parallel Universe

Author : J. S. Kachelries

As the spaceship exited the wormhole, its forward thrusters brought it to a relative stop. The ship sat motionless for an hour as its two occupants tried to determine their location. The pilot, Teeh Ar, balled his two-fingered ‘hands’ into fists, and slowly pivoted to confront his navigator snout-to-beak. “Lost! What do you mean lost?” The vertical slits that were Teeh’s pupils looked like steel daggers in his large, dark cobalt-blue eyes. Then, in a voice two octaves lower than normal, he growled “Pterry, if you don’t find out where we are in one minute, I’m going to bite your head off.” For effect, Teeh bared his upper row of eight inch long, serrated, razor sharp teeth, and snarled.

The 60 pound navigator raised his slender wings over his head and made the thin membranes quiver mockingly with feigned fear. “Oh my God, the mighty King Lizard is going to bite my head off. I’m soooo scared. Ha, ha, ha. Who are you trying to kid? You’re a stinkin’ scavenger, not a predator. You couldn’t bite my head off unless I was already dead. You really crack me up.” Pterry folded his long graceful wings and continued to adjust the dials on his control panel while he searched for a navigation beacon. He considered radioing for directions, but he was male, so that was out of the question until things got really desperate, and probably not even then. “Look, your majesty, if you’re done blustering, make yourself useful. See if you can pick up a station on the holovision. Maybe I can follow the signal back to a subspace transmitter.” Pterry paused momentarily, and then said, “Hey, you know, maybe that wormhole sent us to a parallel universe, or something. I was watching a show about String Theory last month. They said there are 11 dimensions, containing infinite universes. Maybe we jumped into a universe where the Earth is ruled by insects or mammals, rather than dinosaurs.”

“Mammals? You mean like mice? Don’t be ridiculous. Their young can’t live two days without their mommies. How could they ever rule the world?” Just then, the image of a cute, female Allosaurus came into focus on the holovision. Relieved, Teeh said, “Well, there goes your parallel universe crap. I just got ‘Raptor and Friends’ on the projector.” Teeh leaned back and watched the perky, substitute co-host for a few seconds. “You have to admit, she looks pretty good for someone that just hatched twin eggs a few years back.”

Pterry ignored Teeh’s commentary as he attempted to get a fix on the signal. “OK,” he said, “I think this will work. Once I establish a second link, I can triangulate our position, and determine our spatial coordinates. But pleeeease, do me a favor. Switch it to DNN? I can’t stand that network. ‘Fair and balanced’ my tailbone.”

However, Teeh was still smarting from Pterry’s earlier defamatory comments, so he wasn’t in a conciliatory mood. Besides, he liked Raptor News. His eye ridges came together to form a “V” in the center of his forehead, and he grinned. “Listen beak-head, consider it motivation. If you don’t get us home by 8:00 tonight, you’re going to have to watch the Stegosaurus Factor.”

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Local Food

Author : J.R.Blackwell, Staff Writer

Russell came home hungry. When he walked through the door he was thinking of lasagna, steak and sherbet. Leo often had dinner waiting on the table when he came home, their three children occupied in their study pods. When Russell came home he expected warm smells and a quiet house. When he walked thought the door, the children were running around in the kitchen with seven bags of raw, unprocessed, unpackaged food. Seeing Jeremy play with tomatoes, his little fingers crushing the flesh made Russell want to vomit. In the middle of all this chaos was Leo, smiling like a wicked child.

Russell randomly picked an object from a bag and dangled it from between three fingers. “What’s this?”

Leo rolled his eyes. “It’s a cucumber.”

“Yeah, I know it’s a cucumber. Why isn’t it sliced up in a salad, packaged and clean?”

Leo put his hands on his slender hips. “Russell, I’ve decided we should stop eating food from other worlds.”

“What?” Russell threw himself into a kitchen chair.

“The food here on Greenwald is good. It’s grown in the southern continent. We should be supporting Greenwald’s farmers, not some off-worlders.”

“Leo, I don’t want to be involved with one of your political movements. If you want to do something, that’s fine, but I don’t think you should force it on the children and I.”

“The children like going to the market and picking out the food with me.”

Russell pointed to a parsnip on the counter. “The children like getting filthy, and this food is filthy.”

“It is not filthy. It’s local.”

“Same difference.”

“Russell, I saw a program on the NPH Holo-Cast-“

“Not again-“

“They said that our packaged foods are shipped from three star systems away. They have been folded and molecularly warped through space-travel.”

“So what?”

“So what? Russell, this is what we are putting in our bodies!”

“Leo, you are acting like a hippie.”

Leos jaw dropped open. “Russell! Don’t curse, not in front of the children.”

“I like the shipped food! It comes pre-sliced and delivered to our door. I hate putting all that stuff through the processor, programming the damn thing to make whatever, making sure it has all the ingredients. I like my food simple, arriving all ready for me to eat. I don’t have time to process.” Russell slumped over in a kitchen chair.

Leo shrugged his thin, tan shoulders. “Then I’ll process the food. If supporting Greenwald isn’t important to you, if the sacrifices your father made to make this world a success when he immigrated here-“

“Oh give me a bag, I’ll help.” Russell peered inside. “Fresh plums?”

“Yes. They have fresh plums.”

Russell squeezed the purple fruit. “I can never find those on the order form. I didn’t know they grew plums here on Greenwald.”

“Well, they do.”

Russell put his arms around Leo’s waist. “I guess if they have fresh plums, then it can’t be all that bad.”

“Apology accepted. “ Leo dumped the last few pieces of food into the processor and wiped his hands clean.

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Perfect Match

Author : Hannah F

“What do you mean, you knew it wouldn’t work out?” Emma’s brow furrowed as she regarded me across the table. “I watched the simtapes with you; I saw the results. Everything- preferences, intellectual profile, moral standing, even your damn sleep cycles said you two would be a perfect match! How could you have been sure- from ten minutes of actually seeing the man- that it wouldn’t work out?”

I sighed, and leaned forward a little bit, clasping my hands in front of me on the table. “I saw him sit down like this,” I explained miserably. Emma’s face was blank, still uncomprehending. I stretched my right hand, trying to emphasize. “He clasped his hands, and his right thumb was on top.” I shuffled my fingers until I sat comfortably. She stared in disbelief.

“You dumped him because he was right-handed?”

“Not hand dominance, thumb dominance.” I shook my head. “I’m left-thumb dominant. It never would have worked- the second we held hands, everything would have been over.”

“I think you’re full of it.”

I slid off my chair and into the empty one between us, and lifted her left hand with my right, slipping my right thumb over her left, regardless of how uncomfortable I found it.

Her eyes widened. “Oh…”

I let her go and slid back into my seat. We finished our meals without another word.

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The Gift of Naiveté

Author : James Weirick

Fear. Doubt. Uncertainty. Emotions long gone from this society now found new life in the minds of John and Paula. For the first time in their lives, they were unsure. They didn’t know if what they were doing was the right thing. They didn’t know what tomorrow would hold.

Sirens sounded softly in the distance. Someone knew that they were there.

“We have about five minutes until the police get here.” said Paula, “It’s now or never.”

The explosives that John had placed strategically around the Knowledge Retainment Center were hard to come by since the world had stopped fighting wars 20 years ago. Some explosives were still manufactured, but they were only used to demolish old buildings to make room for the new models that were earthquake proof, fire proof, flood proof…everything proof. But even the strength of the new buildings had nothing on the structural reinforcements of the Center. Even the old nuclear bombs were no match for the Center. No, John and Paula needed the most powerful bomb ever made. It was known only as “The Winkie.”

John pushed the button on the detonator and they both watched as the Knowledge Retainment Center was consumed in a ball of fire. The shock wave could be felt for miles, and many of the surrounding building were destroyed in the blast.

People had already started to gather in the streets as the police came to arrest John and Paula. When the police got there, however, they just stood in amazement and watched the melted remains of the Center cool in the shallow crater that the explosion had left. Why bother arresting these two when society as they knew it had come to an end?

One of the officers—now consumed with the same fear, uncertainty, and doubt that John and Paula had felt—looked at the two and in a sad, quiet voice said, “Why?”

Paula smiled and said with a deep satisfaction, “So that our children will have something new to discover.”

Miles away from the explosion the plaque that graced the entrance to the Center was lying in the mud. It read, “The Knowledge Retainment Center is the only receptacle of all the knowledge that mankind has ever gained. It will house that knowledge for this and all future generations.”

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4B45 494B 6F

Author : Dee Harding

Keiko 610618, or ‘keiko610’, as her work is signed, has just returned from yet another business meeting in a far flung industrial sector. Making idle conversation, we ask her if she enjoyed her flight, we ask her where she’s been. She simply shakes her head, amused, and almost seductively mouths the letters, “n… d… a”.

Changing tack we ask her about her other work, and how she’s finding her current stint at the Marlin’s Reach galleries. “Wonderful” she replies coyly, and just as we get the feeling that this is going to be a difficult interview, she continues…

“I never thought that it would get any further than my own pleasure. That what I find interesting, and exciting, would have a wider appeal. But just as I have in life as a whole, I’ve found myself proven wrong at every turn. That’s what’s wonderful about it.” For the uninitiated in fringe art, keiko610 is this season’s big thing, and she’s taken to the sensation like a duck to water. She’s also an android.

While people are stunned that this exotic creature should even be capable of producing such intuitive (if tiny) sculptures and objet d’art, she herself claims to be surprised by the positive reaction she has engendered in the public. “I’m perpetually amazed by people, myself included. I was given birth for certain duties, and I enjoy them. I consider myself good at them.” Keiko is contracted by Zeus-Ethera Shipping Corporation and effectively represents their entire administrative staff. “but at the same time, because I have those facilities, and because I’m good at my job, I find myself in quiet moments, exploring, sorting, trying to make sense of things, and sometimes the results are…” she pauses, for what can only be affect, “Unexpected. On every scale.” Her language gives the truth to that statement, betraying traits we expect to find in ourselves, rather than in what is, in effect, an extremely elegant sculpture given life. The fractal nature of her art is not beyond her. “I must admit that there is some humour in my approach to all this, otherwise I would never have been able to work with you in the past”. Faced with Keiko’s innocent features we’re not quite sure if we’ve been complemented or insulted, but she is, of course, referring to her brief stint as an i-O model last year. “Obviously I’m very grateful for that opportunity, and I enjoyed myself immensely, but I don’t think I’ll be coming back to it very soon. Business moves relentlessly on, after all.” And with that she winks at us in complex irony, and leaves, stretching out like one of her own perfectly formed figurines for another unnamed business destination.

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Author : Dr. Alexanders

Kevin stared upward at the “Arrivals/Departures” sign in the main concourse of the Europa Delta Interplanetary Spaceport. He blinked, rubbed his eyes, and looked again. The information didn’t change, not a single number. It read:

IBSF #452

Europa Delta, Jupiter to Gatwick, U.K., Earth

Scheduled Departure: 18:45, Aug. 23, 2159

Scheduled Arrival: 03:22, Aug. 29, 2159

—DELAYED— 83d 13hr 27min

Glancing around the concourse he saw a customer service desk on the other side of a throng of Brazilian tourists. When they didn’t immediately part for him he simply pushed his way through so that when he finally reached the desk he was followed by strings of what he assumed were Portuguese curses and swear words. A slender, blonde woman wearing the standard spaceport uniform took a second to finish whatever she had been typing and then looked up at him with a false smile.

“And how can I help you today, sir?” Her eyes flicked past him for an instant to the Brazilians who were still shouting at him incomprehensibly.

“I think there has been a mistake… my flight, ummm, here’s my ticket; the board over there says that my flight’s going to be over eighty-three days late.” He started to laugh and then stopped when he realized she wasn’t laughing with him. Instead she looked at her computer and his ticket, typed something and faced him once again.

“I’m sorry, sir, but the board is correct. Here at Icarus Budgetary Space Flights we offer flights at a quarter of the price of other space liners by passing on savings to our customers. One of those savings is reduced fuel costs by taking advantage of optimal flight windows and I am afraid that your flight just isn’t going to make this next window due to spaceport congestion.”

“What!? And the next window isn’t for 83 days? I have a meeting in Prague in two weeks!”

“I am sorry, sir, but you booked a flight at our minimal fuel cost price. There is only a ten day window between arrival and departure and today is the last day in that window. I could book you on our premium flight that leaves tomorrow, though it would cost a little bit more.”

Kevin sighed, “Fine… how much?”

The woman checked her screen again, “An upgrade will cost 1,345 credits.”

“But that’s more than four times what I paid for the flight to begin with! I can’t afford that!”

The woman gave him a sympathetic smile, “I am sorry, sir, but there really is nothing else I could do. Can I give you a voucher for a free night in the spaceport hotel?”

Kevin cursed, violently.

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