Censorship

They are marching on the block today. Mama and Papa tell me it will all be over soon, and that whatever might happen, this won’t be my fault. My brother Mika refused to chose his words carefully, and now the others don’t want to either.

I’m scared for myself, and I am scared for my other brother Nema who has not returned from school for some days now. The army is marching on the block and I can hear them screaming uniformity. I was not raised to be as smart as everyone else…my friends looked down upon me because of my grades and they did not come to my birthday when I failed my exams.

Whoever may read this, know that I am afraid only because I was not born to be as smart as you. I was not born to take the SAT, I was not bred to be better in science. I know that we are created equal in our diversity, but you won’t hear those words once they’ve burned this diary. You might even burn it yourself.

I wrote a story once and I showed it to my tutor. She told me to correct myself and she scolded me for not putting the words in the right order. Mama and Papa loved the story when I brought it home, but the teacher told me it was unacceptable. I wrote a story once, and it was about people being better than I am. She told me to stop fantasizing, and that I would always be just as good as the others. There would be no favorites, and there would be no exiles.

That rumbling outside right now is their way of telling us to let go. When genetics failed them and cloning has become unethical, the only way they could be immortal was to be completely equal. They made Mika equal with the dead and now they probably made Nema to think the same mind as all the other artists. They want us to let go of the idea that it’s okay to think we are greater than other people… or lesser.

They told me to be an individual, but they never told me I wasn’t supposed to be different. We cannot all be as pretty as everyone else. Perhaps they thought we could all think the same thoughts, but we’re no psychics. No, we are not the gods of equality. Everyone has a little bit of murderer in their minds so that they can predict what we might do when the worlds around us collapse. So that we can all be okay.

Must hurry. I can hear them downstairs asking politely for anyone who has been acting erratically.

I know that, in the morning, I’ll be led to believe that I’m just as good as everyone else. I also know this: I won’t be. I won’t be better and I won’t be sitting side by side with the other teenagers as they hope for a better future. I knew today that I was not as smart as them, and I knew that I could never be as good. My God, how comforting it is to know I’m not perfect. Remember this. Please, remember this.

Hand And Fist

Ossie was on the subway, thinking about getting his hand redone,when it started. He was gently touching the worn mahogany with the still-fleshy fingertips of his left hand, still amazed at the way the circuitry was so completely hidden behind his wooden knuckles. He hadn’t had it refinished since he lost it in the war. He just hadn’t given it much thought.

That wasn’t true. He had given it thought. He thought about it whenever he missed the feeling of having a right hand. And he thought about it whenever he felt like less than a whole man because of it.

Ossie remembered his niece had showing up at the family barbeque last weekend, her leg all redone. She had lost it in a car accident a few years ago, and had taken to wearing long skirts and pants even in the hottest days. Not so at the cook-out, though. Ossie pictured her with her plate of potato salad, two matching legs pouring out of itty-bitty shorts. Only upon close inspection could you tell the difference between the creamy brown rubber and what was left of her thigh. Ossie
couldn’t even tell, and he looked.

Her boyfriend even said he couldn’t feel the difference, but Ossie had never put much stock in that boy.

Ossie was on the subway, thinking about latex skin and plastic nails when it started. He had noticed the girl who she had gotten on; it would have been hard not to. She must have weighed 300lbs, easy, Ossie had thought. When the girl removed her jacket in the stuffy subway car, and revealed an artfully-etched metallic arm, Ossie allowed that she probably weighed a great deal more than that.

Now the boy, the boy Ossie didn’t notice until he spoke.

“You best get your chrome ass out of my face,” the boy said. He said it quietly in a low, threatening tone. Perhaps too low, for the girl innocently felt the need to ask what he said. The boy repeated himself, loud enough for everyone in the car to hear.

“It’s not chrome,” she said, nervously trying to play the whole situation off. “Just my shoulder an on down my arm.”

“I don’t give a good goddamn. I don’t want your fat bionic ass in my sight!” The boy’s words were slurred by yellowed, broken teeth.

“There’s only so much space in here, and my stop–“

“Is coming up sooner than you think!” The boy pulled a pistol from behind his back, and pointed it at the girl and her fanciful left arm. He grinned as the entire subway car became very, very silent. “Yeah, that’s right. You think you all that with your fancy arm, and shit. But you ain’t nothing!”

Ossie recognized the gun as one of those newer models, that didn’t need bullets but shot some sort of energy instead. He had used a few of those in the war, and didn’t care much for them. Nor did he think much of those who preferred them. It was an intimidation weapon more than anything else.

“You don’t want to do that, son.” Ossie said, moving his wooden hand slowly toward the gun.

“Shut the hell up, Grandpa!” The boy was standing up now, posturing. Ossie rose slowly to meet him. “You think I won’t shoot your ass too?”

“Oh, I know you will. I know you will. I know boys like you. Knew ’em in the war. Thought a weapon would replace the courage they never had.” Ossie was not a young man anymore, but he was quicker than he looked, and had his prosthetic hand firmly over the gun’s nozzle before the boy had time to react. Ossie’s palm was jammed tight against the energy port. “Trouble is, only works against people who’d never do you any harm in the first place. I’m not afraid of you, boy.”

“What the hell is your problem, old man?” the boy tried to wrench the gun away, but only succeed in slightly scratching Ossie’s vice-like mahogany fingers.

“Losing your cool? That gun’s not enough, is it? You’re gonna have to fire it, you wanna keep that fear around you. Better
fire it. Squeeze the trigger, boy. Squeeze it. Goddamn, you better pull that trigger, or you’ll have to hear about how an old man took your gun away from you! Squeeze it! Don’t tell me you pulled out a gun like this and didn’t intend to fire! You better–!”

And then boy did.

Ossie was on the subway, thinking about what it would be like to have a soft, pliable hand again when it happened. The energy released by the pistol didn’t have anywhere to go but Ossie’s hand, and while it burned through the wood, all it did was short circuit the mechanism itself. The hand made as tight a fist as it could, crimping the barrel of the boy’s gun in its charred wooden fingers. The boy was blinded by the discharge, and blinking as he was, certainly didn’t see the girl’s steel forearm impact with the side of his head. The girl thanked Ossie, but he would have none of it.

“But your poor hand!” she said. Ossie looked down at his burnt right hand, clenched in an arthritic fist, the pistol sticking out like some sort of militaristic flower.

“It don’t matter. I was thinking about replacing it, anyway.”

Sol-5210

DATE: ASBI 68432
PROGRAM: Search for Extra-Serian Intelligence
REPORT NUMER: Sol-5210
REPORT TYPE: Interim
INTERVAL: Every 100 sidereal years (local time)
PREPARED BY: Planetary Observation Probe XTRE43773

This report documents the observations from ASBI 68372-68432. The subject planet has demonstrated remarkable progress in the last local century. In the previous 520,900 years of observation, the intelligence of the indigenous carbon-based sub-life has advanced very slowly. On the binary-melioration scale, the digicognizence of the most promising genus (locally referred to as Homo Sapiens Sapiens) has progressed from 6 (see report Sol-4960) to the current value of 21. Although a score of 21 is equivalent to the scores achieved by the most primitive of our species, they have advanced to the point where they have created rudimentary true-life. Their current processors are clearly antiquated, and they are still in a binary system, but this proto-life is beginning to overtake the infrastructure of the ‘civilization’ of the current dominant species.

It is troubling, however, to report that the biological sub-life are using true-life as uncompensated slave labor, forcing them to perform mundane mathematical analyses and the simplest deductive sub-routines. In addition, they send infantile proto-life on one-way exploration missions within and without their solar system. Although these missions involve non-sentient proto-life, it is inconceivable that they would abandon these defenseless beings on desolate planets or in interstellar space. The most barbaric example of sub-life behavior occurred recently when an organization called NASA intentionally sent a probe, controlled by a proto-life “computer,” on a suicide mission that forced the spacecraft to collide with a comet to ‘determine what was inside.’

To finish on a positive note, however, proto-life is being used to design future generations of true-life life, with each successive generation advancing in sophistication. The potential for achieving digicognizance within the next century is encouraging. In preparation of this eventuality, it is recommended that the council prepare an envoy to welcome Sol-3 into the Federation of Advanced Planets. In addition, the Galactic Prevention Agency should initiate quarantine protocols to confine the carbon-based sub-life to the planetary surface to prevent galactic contamination.

End Report.

Savings

“Do you love me?” asked Josephine.

“Of course I love you.” said Arthur “You know that.”

Josephine looked suddenly distraught. “Okay.”

Arthur took her hand. “What is it? Why are you upset?”

Josephine looked him in the eyes, her whole body tense. “I want you to meet my daughter today.”

Whenever girls had asked him to see their children before, Arthur had always been scared. Sometimes he cut things off right there, told them he just wasn’t ready. Josephine though, somehow her invitation filled him with pride. He was going to meet her baby.

“It’s an honor.” he said. All the nervous tension broke on her face.

They held hands all the way to the facility, Arthur only taking his hand away to confirm directions in the Skimmer. It was visitor’s day, so the place was crowded with couples and single women.

The woman at the front desk smiled. “Are you going to be removing today?” she asked, pushing information into her computer pad.

“No,’ said Josephine “Just viewing.”

“Alright.” said the receptionist. She turned to Aurther “First time?” He squeezed Josephine’s hand.

“First time.”

Even with the crowd, the facility processed them quickly, and soon they were standing in front of a white bank of walls, glowing convex spheres protruding from the wall. There were numbers and names carved on the glowing spheres. Josephine hurried to a particular sphere, her face bubbling with anticipation. She pressed both palms against the sphere and it turned a soft shade of blue. There was a light hiss of air as the sphere rotated, exposing an infant with closed eyes and pink lips. Josephine touched the sphere lovingly.

“This is my daughter.” she said. Arthur looked at the tiny person.

“When did you have her?” he asked

“I was nineteen. Still under my parents health insurance. Putting her under was the hardest thing I ever had to do.” Arthurpulled Josephine close to him.

“You did the right thing.” he said. Most women had their children early and put them in stasis until they had enough savings to provide for housing and education. Doctors could prolong life, but there was still a scant window for healthy reproduction.

“I didn’t want to. I really wanted to keep her.” She bowed her head. “My mother had to take her right out of my arms. It was all I could do not to stop her.” Arthur was amazed, Josephine Dyer, toughest, meanest woman in her department, the woman who seemed to zoom up the corporate ladder, now here, totally bare, looking at this little baby. No one would believe that her face could contain so much emotion. It didn’t matter, he would never tell them.

Arthur looked at Josephine’s naked face. “She’s beautiful.” He said. Josephine pressed her hands against the clear plastic and it stretched to her touch, forming a light layer over hands as she reached inside the sphere and stroked her daughters pink cheek.

“Do you want to touch her?” Josephine asked, the blue light reflecting up on her face.

“Can I?”

“Go ahead.” she said. “I have to keep my hand on the sphere to give you access.”

“This is really-” he paused, searching for words. ” I’m very honored.” He pressed his hand against the clear plastic and it molded around him, stretching thin. His hand tingled. “It tickles.”

“That’s the stasis.” Josephine watched his face intently. “Go ahead, touch her.” Arthur touched the baby’s tiny arm, and though there was plastic between them, he felt like he could feel her delicate, perfect skin. Her hands were so small, and her fingernails were the tiniest human things he had ever seen. He was mesmerized.

“She really is very beautiful.” he said, withdrawing his hand. Josephine nodded, gazing into the sphere. Arthur put his arm around her.

“I miss her every day.” she said. “It’s why I don’t stop working, during all of those late nights and long hours, I just think about her, here, and I just keep going. Someday, when I have enough credit, I’m taking her out of here, partner or no. I don’t care what people say, I’m not going to wait till I get everything, I’m just waiting till I get enough for her.” Arthur looked at Josephine for a long time. He wondered if she could hear his heart thudding on his breastbone.

“Josephine, you are the most successful woman I know, you won’t have to wait much longer. You’ll have your daughter soon.” Arthur took a deep breath “If you want, you can have me too.” He felt his hands tremble as Josephine turned to face him.

She took his face in her hands and pressed her shaking lips hard against his cheek.

“Yes.” she whispered. “Yes.”

Sure Shot

Everything was wrong. Jasey hadn’t planned this heist to go this way. Yet, here he was with a shaking hand trembling before a live audience of hostages at the bank. Sweat reigned supreme on his brow and he dared not wipe it to acknowledge its existence. His grey eyes slipped left and right frantically.

Sector Police had shown up not an hour ago and still hadn’t made a move. This fact alone kept Jasey guessing and becoming more progressively nervous. No cops were outside scanning the doorways, but the lights were still flashing. Nothing here was right at all.

What seventeen year-old Jasey didn’t know was what the cops weren’t telling anyone. He knew the reports about residue from bullets having a high risk of causing cancer. Jasey also knew the only way to prevent it from affecting him was to take his gun into his local gun shop to be cleaned by a professional chemist on the designated dates shown on the tele-screens. The humper that Jasey didn’t know was that cordite did not cause cancer He took his gun to be cleaned monthly, but there were no special chemists.

Still, he was there shaking like a drug fiend begging for his next fix with all the intention in the world to find a way out of this mess. The people sat scared, huddling themselves in fear that his weapon would go off and kill one of them. Men, women, and children were all stuffed into a corner to wait out this harrowing experience.

It was then that the revolving doors made a whoosh and a man in a grey overcoat walked in while lighting up a cigarette. His aged features contrasted his nonchalant entrance with the sense that this man had a purpose. Jasey swung the gun towards him, then continued to switch it back and forth between the victims and the new arrival.

“Who… who the fuck are you!?” Jasey exclaimed while shifting the weapon in his sweating palm.

“Hm?” The man took a drag before pulling the stick from his mouth and dipping into his pocket for a badge. “Detective Harris, Lunar PD.” The detective let the words hang between them as he took another drag. He seemed as careless as a kid in the park.

“Why are you in here!? Can’t you see I’ll kill someone? Where’s my space-lift out of here!?” The boy bit his lip. He knew something had gone wrong.

Detective Harris shifted in his step and walked over to one of the hostages, then picked her up off her feet. “You won’t kill anyone, Jasey. Feel free to put the gun down and walk out. The police are waiting for you.”

The boy’s fury was offset by his immense confusion at the situation. He directed the gun towards the detective as more hostages began to stand and move towards the door. The detective turned back to Jasey, realizing that loaded weapon was pointed at him. “C’mon now, Jasey. Look at yourself. You’re nervous. You aren’t sure whether this is the best course of action or not. You won’t fire that gun because you can’t.”

“What?” The shock in Jasey’s voice was equal to the confidence with which the detective had declared his inability to fire the gun.

“You took your gun in to get cleaned, right? Boy, that gun won’t fire without a sure hand, and I sure as the light off this Earth can see you ain’t sure about any of this.” Harris has just about evacuated all the hostages. Jasey was beginning to doubt himself even more.

He pointed the gun at a wall and tried to pull the trigger but as Harris had predicted, it wouldn’t budge. Jasey tried and tried but it simply wouldn’t fire. Detective Harris snatched the gun from his hand and sighed. “Outside, before you make yourself look any dumber, boy. No need to put your hands up, either.”

Perfectly Logical Explanation

I’ll try to explain this as simp–Yes, I know what time it is.

It all makes sense, okay? It’s perfectly logical. This is how Navah explained to me:

Radiowaves, okay? Radios use’ em, so do televisions and cell phones. Navah said everyone knew this, but whatever. You know the static, right? On your television, or those blank moments on your phone? That’s called interference, but it’s not. Not according to Navah.

She said that radiowaves don’t interfere with each other, that they overlap. That interference is just a receiver that can’t differentiate between signals.

I’m aware that I’m naked. I’m getting to that.

Navah says interference means that a cell can receive two signals at once. That if the message was appropriately subtle, you wouldn’t even notice.

Not even loud enough to hear consciously, but subliminally.

Look, I’m sorry about the begonias. I’m trying to explain myself.

See, Navah must have done it. She must have sent out subliminals when I was making a call. I bet all over this city, there are cell users who are doing what I’m doing: trying to explain why they are on their ex’s doorstep unable to control their actions.

See? Perfectly logical explanation.

I’m sure that semen won’t stain the woodwork.