Stuck on Libby

Author : Julian Miles, Staff Writer

There’s a blue moon above and it’s nothing more than that. Here on Libby, the moons are blue. The rocks here are all shades of blue thanks to a chemical process that occurred during the creation of this planet.

The vegetation is blue because Alistair Peabody was a hopeless romantic as well as richer than several star empires. When his little blue companion of twenty years coughed her last, he swore he’d make a world in her memory. He bribed and cajoled and financed takeovers and had technology stolen.

He set out to make Libby the blue heaven he’d promised to make for his girl. A place where the lonely could come to be eased, the dying could come to find peace, and he could visit when the memories got a little overwhelming.

Over there is the mausoleum he built for her body, and it’s as surprising as the rest of this place; tasteful, delicate, a true work of art. The blue marble shines with an inner light that even the scientists were at a loss to explain. I’ve guessed that it’s a side effect of the white marble innards slowly being turned blue.

Libby started with a dozen work teams: over two hundred people. It now has a population of eight, and will never have more. The blue motif Alistair determined for his memorial needed to go deep, and he implemented some truly ground-breaking technological solutions.

Unfortunately, the pigmentation thingys proved to be very good at blue. After turning themselves blue, anything and everything else turned blue. Animals. Insects. Spaceships. Biscuits. People.

And that blue is contagious. Blue from Libby will attempt to turn everything it comes into contact with blue. It’s the first human-created, galactically recognised technopestilence.

So I’ll sit here and sip blue coffee laced with blue rum as the blue bats flit about my head and my blue hair remains without a trace of grey despite this being my ninetieth birthday. And no, I have not the slightest clue how I can still see. My eyes are orbs of blue, but they still work. It’s something the scientists stranded here researched until they died – still without the slightest glimmer of a solution.

Damn you, Alistair. I only signed on to design the formal gardens around the mausoleum – the ones that no-one will ever visit.

Discuss the Future: The 365 Tomorrows Forums
The 365 Tomorrows Free Podcast: Voices of Tomorrow
This is your future: Submit your stories to 365 Tomorrows

The Measure of a Man

Author : Steve Smith, Staff Writer

Consciousness came back slowly, from the extremities in. First pins and needles in the fingertips and toes, then the crawling burn of some painful memory winding its way along the arms, up the legs, gathering speed until it exploded in a relentless fireball in the brain.

Taxx. A moment ago I was being killed by –

“And here we are back again, Lieutenant.” The voice was everywhere and nowhere, I wasn’t hearing it so much as –

“See how much more clearly you can listen without the limits of your ears, Lieutenant?”

There was a white flash, then an image began to stabilize. I hadn’t opened my eyes, and yet I was seeing, something, a mirror? Something wasn’t right, how—

“And see how much better the view without your eyes, Lieutenant. Now I can show you what I see, at least what I want you to see.” The voice grated. “I must say you’re far more rugged than the rest of your team.”

A sickening spiral, the sudden motion bringing on nausea in waves before a rapid flash of images. Uniforms, men. No, parts of uniforms, parts of men. A floor littered with augments and attached flesh, weapons, body armor, body parts, men. My men.

Somewhere someone was screaming. It was some time before the realization that the screaming was me set in, mic’d and fed back into my brain directly in the absence of the ears I no longer possessed.

The view changed, a no-longer familiar body, face flayed, cables crawling through the lacerated flesh into the muscles, the brain. The body twitched and recoiled from some unseen horror.


The body was me. The twitching was mine.

“You fascinate me, your quest for machinehood, your replacement of your organic components with the more advanced elements akin to my own. You expand and extend your fragile human platform.” The screaming had stopped, a throat screamed raw, lungs no longer able to sustain the sound.

“You never find us trying to replace our more advanced elements with your organics. I suppose it’s natural for you to want to ascend.”

“What I do want to know, however, is what it feels like to be you. To be fragile, fallible, weak. I can measure every variable, every aspect of your existence, your temperatures, pressures, electrical impulses, chemical compositions. I can take you to the point of death and bring you back, again and again, but –” The voice stopped, the image of me presented as if through my own eyes, lidless and unable to be averted turned back on myself, burning like a hot-wire through my brain.

“How do you feel Lieutenant? I need to know.”

Discuss the Future: The 365 Tomorrows Forums
The 365 Tomorrows Free Podcast: Voices of Tomorrow
This is your future: Submit your stories to 365 Tomorrows

Say Goodnight

Author : Angie Gibson

An old man noted Grain’s uniform, tugging his elbow. Grain turned to the whittled, pockmarked, and radiation burned face, nose like a pointed finger. “Get me on.”

“I can’t.”

A woman, starved, ragged, children like clinging tumors to her body. “Please, get me on.”

“I can’t.”

A tug to his sleeve. “Please, please get me on.” A man, not holding a baby or pushing forward a sickly wife, just a single, healthy, thirty five year old man. But it was the fear that gave Grain pause, so raw in this man’s eyes. He, above all these broken, dying people, understood death. It was like looking into a mirror.

“I-I’m sorry.” Grain gripped Thomas’s hand harder.

The ships at the end of the dock were blocked from the surging crowd by a gate reinforced by soldiers. Every few minutes a ship would blast into the sky and the chaos would slack as all the heads lifted to watch it go. Then, like a blink, the pushing and shouting would recommence.

Grain saw friends among these tired solders. He would join them soon, but first he had to put his son on that next ship.

Stepping to the gate, a young soldier with a bleached white left eyeball (tale-tell signs of the I-bac infection, this one got lucky) rushed towards him, but when he saw Grain’s uniform, several ranks above his, he snapped into a salute. Grain saluted distractedly back, hugging his son even closer with the other arm.

“Sergeant Major Frances M. Grain, my son is getting on that ship.” Grain didn’t look at the soldiers as he spoke, he pointed to the purring vessel.

“Do—I’m sorry, sir—but, do you have a ticket?”

“My son is getting on that ship.” Grain looked at the solder this time, and the solder quaked, wringing his rifle like a teddy bear.

“Yes, sir!” He pulled open the gate. Grain shouldered past him, getting ahead of the long line of ticket-wielders, moving in-between the two guards in charge of verifying tickets. They saluted Grain. Grain knelt in front of Thomas, ignoring the angry curses from the line.

“You must go.”

“I-I can’t leave you.”

“You will go.”

“But mama and Gracie.”

Tears like gritted sand filled his voice as he said, “You have to go.”

Thomas turned to the ship. He turned to the crowd. He turned back to his father. His son looked like Grain’s father, dark and deep, olden by wisdom, just a mini version of a man.

“They will die, all these people, will die.” There was matter-of-fact in Thomas’s voice.

“But you will live.”

Thomas nodded. He didn’t hug his father. He squeezed his hand. “Goodbye.”

“DON’T SAY GOODBYE!” The sudden anger filling his father frightened young Thomas. Grain shook him roughly. “Don’t say goodbye. Say…goodnight.”

Thomas didn’t understand, but the boy’s inherent wisdom took the wheel. “Goodnight.”

Grain nodded, hugged the boy. The child turned. Grain watched as he entered the ship. He watched as the solders sealed the door. He stood back and watched as the ship shot into the sky. His rank informed him that the vessel will move into outer orbit before blowing apart. But until that moment, Thomas, and every other passenger aboard, will enjoy chemical bliss. In their altered minds they will land on the Green Paradise. Time will be manipulated; his son will grow old in his mind. He will raise children. They will have children. They will be there when Thomas dies happy in his bed. He will never know he has only an hour to live.

“Goodnight,” Grain whispered.

Discuss the Future: The 365 Tomorrows Forums
The 365 Tomorrows Free Podcast: Voices of Tomorrow
This is your future: Submit your stories to 365 Tomorrows

The Collated Shore

Author : John K. Webb

This was not South Carolinian white sand beach. He’d instructed Jacobson—the spherical little Dispensation Drone with its twitching antennae and the prying, bulging crystalline eye—to direct them to a nearby exoplanet with a white sand beach. Corporal Weyer had nicknamed Jacobson “Jacobson” one day prior because he’d found it amusing; apparently, this minor betrayal was the drone’s version of a comeback.

“You are not satisfied with Exoplanet-Arlington-XC57C? My scanners indicate that your blood pressure has risen to one-twenty-seven over eighty-two, which while being within normal parameters—“

“I’m sure you find this funny,” said Corporal Weyer, folding the pre-deployed polycarbonate surfboard under his armpit.

“Exoplanet-Arlington-XC57C is the closest approximation to what you described, sir.”

“The sand is black andesite, you can barely call it sand—“

“Blood pressure has increased to one-thirty-five over eighty-six—“

“—and you think it’s funny, don’t you?”

The drone fluttered in circles around his head, humming a tuneless song in its tinny voice that served as response, and with that they began walking down shore, Weyer’s footsteps disappearing almost instantaneously in the hot, rubbery black “sand.” Then, looking on the horizon, he noticed something.

“I haven’t seen one wave, Jacobson.”

It was true: the planet’s ocean, large enough to swallow all of Earth’s landmass, stretched as an infinite sea of mint colored glass, the light green color owing to sprawling colonies of undisturbed deep-sea algae that’d originally been confused with methane gas emissions, from the orbital imaging.

“The planet’s wave articulation—“

“My only day off and you take me to a planet with no waves?”

“—occurs once every three hours. The next wave is due in fifteen minutes.”

“Care to tell me my blood pressure?” Said Corporal Weyer, stepping into the water. It felt like a river bottom, layered moss-slick stones that if not for his boots would have been quite painful to walk on.

“Blood pressure is—“

“Shut up, I was joking.”

“May I remind you that the re-appropriation of TEDI material for the purposes of constructing a surfboard is a gross misuse of company material?”

“You just did.”

They went about a hundred yards out before Weyer activated his surfboard, the object no larger than a briefcase unfolding into a twelve foot long solid piece of polyurethane. The Corporal lay flat on his belly, the board unmoving atop the featureless expanse of alien ocean. Like antarctic whiteout: a shimmering flat Nothing. Jacobson hovered overhead, providing a measure of shade, scanning with that great, bulging eye.

“No lifeforms detected,” it said helpfully.

Weyer grunted.

Charleston was his home—at least, it had been, before he’d entered the Deep Sleep and drifted several million miles away. For the first time in his career he allowed himself to wonder if the city still even physically existed, or like every other memory simply lived on in collation and correlation: water is water, beach is beach, whatever the chemical components. Cold comfort, but comfort nonetheless.

“You know what paradise is, Jacobson?”

“An existential conceptualization—“

“This is it, this is paradise. Nothing but ocean and beach, oldest thing there is.”

A bump appeared on the horizon, what the orbital images showed as a solid wall of water rising hundreds of feet high, straddling the planet, the result of unstable tectonic activity. The wave was finally coming.

“I take it all back. This is perfect. Jacobson, thank you.”

The drone hummed merrily, “I wouldn’t trick you.”

Discuss the Future: The 365 Tomorrows Forums
The 365 Tomorrows Free Podcast: Voices of Tomorrow
This is your future: Submit your stories to 365 Tomorrows


Author : Morrow Brady

I sensed the click of my empty handgun moments before I heard it, while impact shrapnel, ricocheting across the upturned chassis of my downed cruiser sang out cries of retreat.

With the soft belly of vulnerability in the air, I made my exit from the street-side exchange and vaulted over some hoarding into the nanite building site.

Site security lit up the forecourt as the smell of complex bonding chemicals grew. The incomplete amorphous apartment tower floated before me. It would be finished in a week. Nanobots never took holidays.

As I passed a stack of white pilotless fly & supply cubes, I was momentarily entranced by the pink hues of sunshine scattered through the vacuous cotton candy façade. Behind me, my pursuers rammed my cruiser through the hoarding and caught sight of me as I ran inside.

As my security clearance commenced handshakes with the Site OS, I surged deeper into the translucent building, noting the salty metallic taste of FlyNites as they merrily lazed their way through the humid air.

I ascended a stairwell lit by the fiery veins of SupplyNites discharging static. On level three, the floor was sticky with elemental adhesives and the air stuttered with the silent roar of ImpactNites. A green peripheral glow told me that Site OS was now under my control along with it two hundred million strong nanite army. I allowed a brief smile to escape.

The first pursuer, mindlessly tracking my thermals, took ten paces into the level three lobby and sank into a quicksand floor. My NanGineers had severed a single joint of each of the floor’s triangulated micro-frames. He quietened as soon as his brain mass merged with the level two ceiling ducts.

The second criminal walked through a nanite filament splayed across an open doorway. It adorned his torso like a ceremonial sash. The nanites had a simple instruction. In pairs, one either side of his chest, they would travel directly toward their partner. The victim literally fell to pieces.

My next assault was airborne, as two more pursuers inhaled a swarm of FlyNites delivering cleaning acid and floor epoxy. They fell in five breaths.

When a tall Amazonian, lured by the sound of impact bots, opened a double doorset, the handles disintegrated into a frenetic mass of DemoNites. By the time pain registered, she was incapable of wiping free the chaos. Her two shrouded sidekicks swiftly back pedalled but not before putting three in her back.

The shrouded pair closed fast. Their bulks, layered with defensive fields, repelled the airborne attacks and they kept clear of the architecture. As they crept down the corridor, the floor slab above them was severed with a deep earth crack. The tonnage, hinged on steel reinforcement, swung down to impacted their flank, sending them flying through the external HexMesh wall. My thermals tracked their limp forms as they plummeted three floors.

The final pursuer, biding his time within a darkened niche, caught sight of me as I returned to the stair. I never felt the first blade as it entered my chest nor the second that plunged deep into my side. He however felt the AbrasioNites as they transformed from my doppelgänger into an all enveloping tornado.

I returned to the street, setting my micro-army to clean up mode.

“Evening Detective” said a Constable emerging from a wall of flashing lights.

“Constable” I replied.

“Everything ok?”

“All good. Nothing to see here.”

Discuss the Future: The 365 Tomorrows Forums
The 365 Tomorrows Free Podcast: Voices of Tomorrow
This is your future: Submit your stories to 365 Tomorrows