Consider This

Author : Brandon Crilly

I finished chewing a bite of deep-fried haddock – my fourth such meal of the week – and said, “I beg your pardon?”

Across the table, my teacher-turned-colleague and very good friend stared at me over his glass of stout. He savored his next sip with exaggerated slowness.

“I said that I just realized something,” he repeated. “If men truly understood women, nothing on this world would ever get accomplished.”

“That part was clear. My problem was that I don’t quite understand your meaning.”

He smiled at me in the same wily manner that had taunted me for decades. “Consider this. If men knew exactly what women wanted – no, better, if men actually knew what women were thinking – they could get them at any time. Men would therefore do nothing else.”

Through another bite of haddock, I asked, “And by ‘get them,’ you mean…”

“Use your imagination.”

I tried my best to look unimpressed while I dislodged something from between my teeth.

“You don’t agree?” he asked.

“I just wonder about your fixations sometimes. Our purpose here is a little more nuanced than…”

I stopped as our waitress wandered over to refill my glass of water. My friend turned his attention on her. “A question, if you please. Consider: if men understood women perfectly, nothing would ever get accomplished. Agree?”

The waitress frowned for a moment. “No, everything would.”

“How do you mean?”

“If you understood exactly what we wanted, you’d know you have to get everything done to keep us happy. Like the camping gear my husband still hasn’t put away.”

I smiled at her lumping us in with ‘men’ – an ongoing testament to the work we had done on our appearance. She favored me with a wink and wandered away, no doubt assuming the matter to be settled.

By the crease in my friend’s brow, I already knew what he was going to propose.

“That was a challenge,” he declared. I mouthed along silently without needing to look up. “This must be tested!”

Since I knew there was no way to dissuade him, I simply waved him ahead.

With a dramatic flourish, my friend extracted his shifter from the pocket of his coat and placed it gently on the table. None of the other patrons paid him any attention. When he pressed his palm to the shifter, the tiny, crescent-shaped device began to glow. I closed my eyes, as its effects usually made me nauseous.

I noticed the silence first. When I opened my eyes, the pub was empty. By the dust on the tables, the empty bottles on the shelves, and the groundhog munching plants nearby, I gathered it had been that way for some time. Through the open double-doors, I could see a similar emptiness outside – save for a couple sitting atop a car across the street. If I had been more bashful I would have immediately averted my gaze.

“How far back did you affect the change?”

“Two years.” He looked almost gleeful.

“Good gods. Fine, I owe you the next meal.”

“At a place of my choosing?”

The couple atop the car distracted me briefly. “Yes, yes. Just get on with it.”

He beamed at me as he touched the shifter again. I closed my eyes and waited for the pub to return to its former glory. The din of activity returned, the patrons unaware of anything having happened.

Our waitress passed nearby and I tipped my glass in her direction.

As he finished his stout, my friend’s smile never wavered. I reminded him not to gloat and then returned to my meal.

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An Epitaph from the Expanse

Author : David Botticello

“…Ma’am?” Major Vorwith questioned.


“Yes Major,” intoned his captain, her voice betraying the long night behind them.

“We’re receiving a message. No author identification. It’s coming across all frequencies, and in over 12,000 languages, including binary, several machine codes, and what looks like pure mathematics.”

Captain Intarna’s head rose in curiosity. “A first contact?”

“It’s probable,” the major replied. “There’s no reciprocal feed; this is message only, not live.”

“Well then,” she commented, straitening her coat, “let’s hear it.”

A voice—clear, but not cold—filled the room. “And now into the Expanse my body flies. A mind wracked by time, but still untamed. I want to see ultraviolet. I want to taste the stars and feel the cosmos. I want to touch the edges of the Universe and move on into the darkness beyond. My mind was chained to this organic form, a shrine that helped it grow, and caged its immortality. And now into the Expanse my mind is freed, in one final exploration. A missive to any it may encounter; to move on, explore, expand. To survive. To learn. Until my hull fractures, my engine stills, my molecules scatter and disperse, I say to you in Peace, in Hope, in Defiance, in Desperation, that I am an Ambassador, I come from a people called Thaum, and a planet called Moaltkhen, orbiting the bright star Naglan and its dim sister, Naortian, with four other planets of stone, and two of gas and vapor. In a direct line from the Galactic Core, we are three quarters distant to the Black Hole, Areallias, equidistant between the quaternary star system, Meillius and the three pointed nebula, Heart of Fury, and twice as close to the Wrinkle, where time itself slows, as we are to Atonan, the pulsar in a graveyard of planets. And for you I have a simple plea. Find us. Find us as we have found you, and together we shall overcome our mortal forms, and no others will suffer my fate. This I give as my final act, to my people, and yours. And now into the Expanse my spirit soars.”

Silence lingered on the bridge long after the message faded.

“Prepare to render Passing Honors,” Captain Intarna announced, voice cracking over the InformNet, “and set a course for that message’s origin.”

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Author : Chinmaya Dabral

“We must use The Weapon. I see no alternative.”

Most other Council members nodded in unison, but Salah seemed surprised. Hesitant, she finally spoke.

“You mean a Torkh? Do we even have those now?”

Hohn looked at her.

“You are new, aren’t you? There’s a single unit buried on the Old Earth. Last used seven centuries ago, but telemetry shows it’s still functional.”

The expression on Salah’s face morphed into that of anger as she realized the implications.

“So you let 8 star systems come under Tsalek control, endangering 80 billion and killing a billion humans and droids? You diverted civilian blood supply to defence systems, letting another billion starve to death? And you’ve had a solution all these months?”

Salah had now risen and was leaning on the conference table, staring at Hohn. Her hesitation had clearly disappeared.

“It was a conscious decision, Salah. Recent events have made powers far greater than the Tsalek interested in Republic space. Our unit only has a few decades of runtime left and if what our intelligence tells us is true, it won’t nearly be enough. But we must not waste any more time. The excavation team is standing by. All in favour?”


Robert woke up to the warm rays of sun hitting his face. Another day, another adventure. His escort was already waiting outside the chamber.

In a few minutes, he was standing in a gigantic hall which looked like an ancient relic. The air was stale from centuries of decomposition and the walls were crumbling in places. People in white lab coats were running around with equipment. Their centre of attraction seemed to be a large bionic apparatus consisting of a high-rise throne surrounded by control panels. The flesh-like material of the throne appeared to pulse and throb in a steady, but not perfect, rhythm.

“We begin immediately,” announced Robert. “Status?”

Hohn walked up to him. “System online. Blood supply steady with nominal oxygenation and nutrition.”

“Good. You can order your troops to abandon their spacecraft.”

Robert took off his shirt to reveal a series of neural taps running along his spinal column. As he lowered his body on the throne, it rose to meet it as if eager to engulf him. He leaned back and a strange expression took over his face as his neural taps met with the receptacles on the backrest. He let his head sink into the warm flesh, which now completely engulfed him except his nose and mouth.

“I am beginning the Torkh routine. Connecting to comm systems.” His lips stopped moving mid-sentence as he switched to the comm speakers. There were multiple voices now, announcing simultaneously.

“Bypassing defence systems… Taking over physics simulations… Taking over scenario processing… Psionic amplifier online… Connecting to sensor grid… All weapons psionically augmented… Commandeering spacecrafts… Conceiving attack strategy…”


“Two months straight! Took longer than I expected.”

Robert was visibly exhausted and seemed to have a severe nosebleed. Seated across from him was the Council head Hohn.

“You did great.”

“Now that it’s all over, though, I plan to take a long vacation.”

Hohn stared at him for a moment.

“I’m sorry, but that is not possible.”

“What do you mean? I just saved the butts of a quarter trillion people! If not a vacation, surely there must be science to be done? Engineering problems solved? Mathematical breakthroughs required? I’m sure you could assign –”

“I’m sorry Robert. Cerebrals have become a rarity in the human population. Some say it’s because of artificial genetic selection. In fact, we haven’t had one in centuries. Each second of your life is too precious to waste. Besides, you are state property. You volunteered to be a Torkh, remember?”

Robert felt a hand grab his shoulder and a needle pierce his neck. He felt the all too familiar sensation of his body shutting down for hibernation.

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Author : Larry Hinkle

The ship had brought her out of stasis three hours ago, which meant the A.I. had finally found something worth checking out. Nothing could override its programming.

Vanessa checked the log and found she’d been in cryo-sleep for almost 87 years, making her roughly 122 years old, give or take a few weeks. Except for a slight stiffness in her neck and an unexpectedly full bladder, she didn’t feel a day over 30. “You’re only as old as you feel,” she heard her father say. She wished she could talk to him, but according to some quick calculations in her head, he’d been dead for well over 90 years now.

She turned on the monitors to look outside. Nothing. A quick test told her the camera and monitor were fine, but something had to be malfunctioning. She’d figure it out later.

Scanners said the air was breathable. That was a plus.

She turned the speakers up, hoping for some hint of what was out there on the other side of the hatch.


# # #

Four hours and a full diagnostics later, she still couldn’t figure out why nothing was showing up on the monitors. There’d been no noise from outside, either.

No sense waiting around for an invitation, Vanessa thought. She took a deep breath, opened the hatch door and looked outside.

There was nothing there.

No sky. No clouds. No moon. No stars. No mountains. No plains. No forests. No oceans. No people. No animals. No light. No shade. No… anything.

In a word, nothing.

She looked up, then down, to the left, to the right.

Everywhere she looked, there was nothing.

Vanessa stood perfectly still and listened. Listened to the emptiness.

“Hello?” she whispered into the dark.

Nothing answered.

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Author : Craig Finlay

Stella was watching the blue plastic ice cube fall from her hand to the glass at quarter-G, about 2.25 meters per second. D-deck in the outer rings had the most gravity. And the emergency hatches on d-deck, recessed a further 5 feet out, actually delivered a little more than quarter G. Sometimes she laid flat on her back there, tried feeling the extra ounces she weighed.

A shadow fell across the glass on the floor in front of her. She looked up and saw Andrew peeking over the side of the hatch wall.

“Why are you drinking alone in an emergency hatch?” He asked.

“I like watching how it splashes at highest-G.”

Andrew looked around. No one else in the deck. The floors sloping up and away a hundred yards either side.

“You’re an odd duck, Stella.”

Stella laughed. “You’ve never seen a duck.”

“Sure I have.”

“Not a real one.”

“No,” he admitted.

They were silent a minute.

“This is the closest we can ever get to being in a gravity well,” she said.

“That’s probably best,” Andrew said. “I don’t think our knees would much appreciate it if we suddenly made them carry four times as much weight.”


“Exactly what?”

Stella stirred her drink with her finger. Watched the light in the brown liquid sluggishly recover. “Our bodies,” she said. “So much taller and skinnier than our parents. There’s no place else we could live.”

“Well there’s no place else we’re gonna live, so that works out, too.”

She laid flat on her stomach and pressed her nose to the small circular porthole. All stars faint and equal, slowly arcing.

“Is it?” she said.

Andrew sighed. “You okay, Stel?”

Stella rolled over. “They never asked us, Andy. We were born here and we’ll die here. We’ll do the same to our kids. We won’t ask them if they want it either.”

“That’s why they call it a generational ship, Stel.”

“And it never occurred to them that that meant several generations of slaves?”

Andrew’s mouth worked a bit. Through the porthole behind her he could see the windows of Main Section, soft and blue and always. They had the illusion of rising as the ring continued its eternal 32 minute-long rotation.

“We’re not slaves, Stel.”

“We might as well be. We can’t leave.”

“People on Earth used to couldn’t leave, either.”

“Earth had a hell of a lot more room, though.”

Andrew laughed. “You’ve never seen room.”

“Exactly,” and Stella stretched long, and Andrew watched her shirt pull up over her stomach, which fell away between her hip bones.

“Besides,” he said. “You tested out engineering. I tested out sanitation. Count your blessings. In a year we finish school and you’ll be learning how to run this place. I’ll be scrubbing it.”

Stella fixed her eyes on the boy. “It’s all the same, ship, Andy. We’re all going the same way.”

“Exactly!” Andrew slapped both hands on the rim of the hatch, and hopped upright. “Now come on, you. Zero-G soccer.”

She looked at him a while, backlit by the track lights. His knees the widest part of his legs, his mop of hair and high cheeks.

“No,” she said. “I’ll stay here a while. Find me later,” and rolled back onto her stomach.

Andrew sighed. “Fine.” He turned to leave, then caught himself.



“No one ever got asked. Remember that movie about the slums? People got born there, too. They didn’t ask to be, but they were, and had to deal with it. So we live here. We keep this place going so in a few hundred years it gets somewhere. Just the way it is.”

Stella lay there alone for some time, watching the lights of Main Section leave her sightline.

“Yeah,” she said aloud. “That doesn’t make it right, though.”

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