Sugar High

Author : Rick Tobin

Log Entry: Friday, August 19, 2033

I doubt anyone aboard will miss me, but how to go? No cords or a decent rope for hanging. Not a belt on the whole ship. Velcro won’t cut it with the smooth walls on the Jones. If I had a decent cook’s apron I could use the ties, but no, I have to wear my single-issue jumpsuit. If nothing else, having to wash the thirty crew members’ undies while I have to stand nude would be reason enough for suicide.

It’s not the adventure the recruiter described: cleaning walls, clothing, cutting hair, and preparing meals. I can’t fly this heap, navigate, perform science experiments or make repairs. My spec sheet says duties as assigned, basic labor. I might as well be a toilet shadow…another thing I have to keep clean. Four went to Mars on the first 2029 exploration. I can’t figure why these thirty need special consideration. Why depend on me to make their travel pleasant? True, I can make a gourmet meal out of rat’s guts and straw, but for all that why treat me like a stowaway? And when we get to Bush Argo 1 I’m assigned to tend the hydroponic garden because of my green thumb. We’re only a week from landing. I can’t face that.

Why didn’t I use an air lock? They put rotating codes on the locking keypads. Only the CO and Exec have numbers. I just want out. They use me for amusement; first just short-sheeting the bed, or hiding my pillow; then, peeing in my boots or hiding shoe polish in my toothpaste. Lately the mad crapper leaves piles around the rig. I have to clean it and listen to laughter as I walk to recycling. If that wasn’t bad enough, someone is going through my stuff. I’m still missing Granny’s wedding ring. Why take that?

I’m not brave. I don’t get paid for that. I only left to get out of debt. They clear all that when you sign for a one-way. I simply can’t get up the nerve to slice myself with my butcher knives or try to find a loose wire to put in my mouth. So, I’m going to make up some special chocolates, just for me, with some of the sleep meds I slipped out of the dispensary cabinet. I’ll just go to sleep and they can take care of my mess for a change. I’ll bake the fudge bars tomorrow and cover them with a killer dose of frosting. So when you read this, know that I had a sugar high before I left this crate, so you creeps couldn’t make me your pendejo gardener on Mars.

Mom, I’m sorry. I know you expected more. I love you. See you someday.

“That’s the end of the log?” Inspector Connolly asked his associate, Spenser Willis, as he finished reading.
“That’s it, Chief.”
“The crew must have distracted Hernandez long enough to break into his room, take the chocolates and consume all of them. That seems clear. Agree?”
“Perfectly, except for the missing body.”
“Sure, we got all the crew after the John Paul Jones landed, except him. Any clues?”
“No, and there’s no suits missing. No sign of Hernandez. That’s a big one driving Space Central nuts. It’s causing a Press circus. It could set back our program a decade. We’re going to be hurting if they don’t send more ships.”
“We’ve got plenty of useless pilots and navigators, but no one to keep our gardens going or cook.”

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New Age

Author : Lindsey McLeod

When the doorbell beeped, Henry didn’t bother looking up from the Independent Galactic Dispatch. It would beep again in a few moments, once the customer had glanced around the shop and decided that there was nothing they wished to peruse further. Even a potential purchaser, as unlikely as that idea was, could wait. Henry’s knowledge of the debate on legal rights for robotic cup holders was shabby at best, and the Indy was currently helping to rectify this.

A shadow fell across the page. Henry swallowed a sigh. “Can I help you?”

The woman was studying the dusty radio on the counter with a hint of disdain. “Yah, yah. I’m just looking.”

She didn’t immediately slide away from the counter though, so he was forced to politely endure her umbral encroachment with a thin smile. He watched her in annoyance, unable to fully devote himself to the grand pursuit of wisdom as she meandered about the room, picking up various objects with increasing ennui. One listless tentacle caressed a withered photograph of some twentieth century President Nobody. Prime Minister Something or Other. He wondered whether he could pass the coffee stain off as blood. A bit of tangible history.

The same tentacle fondled the engraving on an open silver locket with a gesture which was, if not a sibling then definitely a first cousin, of complete boredom. Her shoes made syncopated clicking noises.

Henry returned his focus to the Indy, drawing his sprkker-weave cardigan closer around him. The Courts versus V-Type Holder 1138775 could wait until later. The advice column this week was about introverts. Interesting. Perhaps it had some useful information he could use. The subheadings read: Try reaching a new goal; Interact with people; Choose your own boundaries. The shadow fell again. He took a calming breath. If only interacting with people didn’t actually involve interacting with people. There was a whole galaxy out there and he’d be quite happy if it stayed that way instead of repeatedly barging into his little shop. “Can. I. Help. You?”

“These fortune telling cards,” the woman said, brandishing said item. “Have you tried them?”

Henry squinted at her. “Fortune telling is entirely outwith the realm of science.”

“That wasn’t my question.”

He felt hopelessly adrift. “Then no.”

She opened the pack and started shuffling them one by one. “Pick a card, any card,” the woman drawled.

Most of her eyes were a deep, lustrous brown. Challenging. He looked down at the Indy. Then back at her. He drew a card and glanced down. She eyed him impatiently. “Was it the Lovers?”

“Does it matter?”

“That wasn’t my question.”

He smiled in spite of himself. “Then yes.”

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Author : chesterchatfield

“What’s that supposed to be?” The student guffawed. “Some kind of dragon or something?”

The professor gave her a look completely devoid of all amusement. “Dragons, do not exist. This creature is reptilian and has the ability of flight—after that all similarities to any fictional creatures cease.”

She tossed her blonde hair. “Well, I’m no expert, but taking the laws of GRAVITY and PHYSICS into consideration, I’m pretty sure there is no way that dragon, could ever get off the ground. Its wings are too small.”

Through my distaste of this bubble-headed teen, I had to admit she had a point. The animal did look like a dragon, and its thin, leathery wings most certainly did not have the width or length to keep its scaly mass in the air.

The professor’s jaw tightened. “Well,” he imitated, “Taking into consideration that you know absolutely nothing about this creature, you are correct. Its wings could never lift it off the ground.”

He slipped a new picture into the projector, a beautifully illustrated representation of the creature with a number of odd swirling shapes around the tail and hind legs.

“These,” he flicked at the shapes with a long thin pointer he seemed to pull from nowhere, “are what keep it in the air. Its wings serve only for balance and steering in the flying process; a mere gliding technique. These air currents,” He circled them, “are projected from specialized ducts located beneath the scales all along the tail and legs. They—along with the extremely muscular hind legs—provide the lifting force and power behind flight-”

He was on the verge of launching into a more detailed account of the muscles and processes involved when he was stridently interrupted by the blonde’s even more idiotic friend. She was standing a few steps behind the professor, and he was forced to turn all the way around in order to confront her.

He rotated slowly, a look of supreme irritation on his normally serene face. “Is something funny?”

She took a deep breath, but her explanation was still punctuated by giggles. “I apologize professor, but,” She looked at her blonde friend, hoping she would share the amusement. “But are you saying that the dragon flies by passing gas through its tail?” The last few words came out garbled through a cackle, shared by her friend.


The professor frantically tried to regain control of the conversation, “That’s ridiculous. It’s a simple process of gas exchange–”

I couldn’t help but let out a small chuckle of my own at his unintentional hilarity.

“It’s called wind power! Will you get ahold of yourselves!”

The two were in a fit of hysterics, falling over themselves laughing.

“You’re killing us, Professor! You’re killing us!”

His face was bright red. “I refuse to put up with this! I’m leaving! Ladies! Try to regain your composure!” He stomped out, and the girls could do nothing but wipe tears of mirth from their eyes at his retreating back.

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Author : Alex Skryl

Jack Thompson carefully placed Roger into his cage as Patrick Hughes entered the lab.

“Hey Jack. Yuri missed our weekly. Any idea where he is?” asked the Director, looking concerned.

“What?! He didn’t tell you?” replied Thompson, grinning.

“Tell me what?” inquired Hughes, reaching for a chair.

“P53! It worked! It … more than worked!” said Thompson in an excited whisper. He pulled up a chair next to Hughes, taking his time to contrive an explanation.

“Pat, do you know why most living things don’t live forever?” Thompson asked.

Hughes pondered the question for a second. “Well Jack, assuming they don’t die of disease or some unfortunate accident, it’s because they get old. Their cells become less efficient with age, having to work just as hard only to get less done. Current science blames it on DNA degradation, isn’t that right?”

“Yes! It’s a fidelity problem!” exclaimed Thompson, his eyes widening with excitement. “With every copy, our genome’s signal to noise ratio decreases, causing the cellular machinery to alter its behavior slightly. Over time, these small errors accumulate, usually leading to what we perceive as aging, and on rare occasion causing disease, such as cancer. Now, let me ask you this,” Thompson continued, “considering how universal senescence is, why do you think that nature hasn’t come up with a fix?”

Hughes sighed, getting impatient. “It’s a diminishing returns problem if I remember correctly. Complex organisms die from predation, disease, hunger, and a myriad of other causes, making their chances of living to old age slim to none. There is no evolutionary pressure to extend lifespan because animals don’t die of old age, my friend. They die from being eaten by other animals.” Hughes reached for a pen and a piece of paper. “Look here. If the probability of some creature dying in the span of a single day is 1/1000, then the probability of them surviving for 20 years is (999/1000)^(365*20)=0.067%, which is negligible. So, as long as they reach maturity and reproduce well before then, evolution will consider them fit. No reason to fix what’s not broken. Right?”

“I’m very impressed Dr. Hughes!” said Thompson smiling. “Anyhow, this is where P53 comes in. It is a retroviral gene therapy that was intended to be a cancer vaccine. It improves transcription fidelity and adds new mutation-triggered apoptosis pathways. A few things that nature overlooked. Here’s the kicker though, after vaccination, our simulations show no sign of DNA degradation over millennia. That’s thousands of years, Pat!”

“Wait!” Hughes interrupted. “Am I to understand that the two of you inadvertently created an immortality drug?”

“Roger is our first living test subject,” Thompson replied, glancing at the white mouse on the other side of the room. “But if the simulations are accurate, then he will outlive us all.”

“Who else knows about this?” Hughes asked, reaching for his phone.

“Olovnikov, myself, and now you,” said Thompson. “Why?”

“Brian?” Hughes spoke into the handset, “Code 42, lock us down plea…” before he finished his sentence, Yuri Olovnikov walked into the room. There was fear in the man’s eyes but it was overshadowed by righteous determination.

“King of kings, Lord of lords; Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto…” Olovnikov mumbled, his voice trembling. “Forgive me.” His fingers tensed into a fist and the lab was suddenly awash in a brilliant white light.

As the dust from the explosion settled, a small white mouse ran out of the rubble into the grassy underbrush nearby. He had a long life ahead of him.

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Author : Duncan Shields, Staff Writer

We are on a planet whose proper name is unpronounceable by us according to the aliens who left us here. We call the planet Here, Prison, Earth2, Re-earth, Zooplanet and many others names. We haven’t been here long enough for one single name to stick.

It looks kind of like what I remember Africa looking like when I saw it on television back on Earth. Lots of arid land with occasional fields of tall grass and little tiny lakes scattered around, lots of sun.

We’ve got three suns and sixteen moons. The suns are weaker so we don’t cook. They add up to a constant summer. The moons make for a much brighter night. Both days and nights are twice as long here but we’ve adjusted.

We sleep half the day and then half the night. The protective atmosphere here is not flawed. We tan here with no burning and no skin cancer.

Over a year ago, the aliens came down to Earth and left a puzzle for us floating in the middle of the Pacific; a giant geodesic dome bobbing in international waters. They made a lot of noise leaving it there. Our weapons had no effect. We watched the ship leave and turned our attention to the artifact.

One by one, the countries sailed out, surrounded it and stared. For once, the UN came in handy and volunteered to be first to go into it.

Inside the dome were a series of simple puzzles that became progressively harder. The puzzles were relayed back. The world got busy.

The first six were completed in days. Prime number sequences, geometric and logic proofs, a couple of theoretical physics equations. Then they got hard.

We made it up to question twenty. Hawking died trying to figure it out.

After no more puzzles had been solved for sixteen months and a few of them had been answered incorrectly, the aliens came back.

Twenty-three million of us were collected at random. We simply woke up in the cargo hold of the arkship floating around our former home, a mathematically fair cross-section of ages, races, nationalities and gender. Family ties were not taken into consideration.

As the Earth grew smaller, we saw it flash a number of colours.

We were told later that the Earth had been sterilized and cleaned for its new tenants. That meant that every human not on board the ship was dead.

I missed my parents. We all still had nightmares. Some of the women have given birth, though, and a new generation has been born here.

There was initial fury, insanity and sadness after we left the arkship. Factions developed, readying themselves to attack the aliens if they returned and trying to rally others. The aliens have not come back and those factions are being listened to less and less.

There are still some that see us as victims rounded up and put on some sort of a reservation. Their numbers are dwindling. The grief-stricken are starting to rejoin conversations and laugh sometimes.

The silent surroundings and lack of predators are calming. You can’t die from exposure to the elements here. It’s always good weather. The plants and food and game animals are plentiful and none of it seems to be poisonous.

There’s no money here. The unemployment rate is 100%. The air is clean and so far, the weather’s been a flat and uneventful paradise compared to the growing superstorms on Earth.

The fact is that most of us have taken to thinking that technically, we’ve been rescued.

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