Storm Rider

Author : Desmond Hussey, Staff Writer

“Doppler readings show primary vortex three hundred meters off starboard and closing fast on my position,” I radio to the control hub, half submerged into the desert mesa two miles away. “Wind speed… 400kph and rising. All systems green. Ready for takeoff.”

“Roger that, Indra 2-Whisky. You are clear for takeoff. May the wind be in your favor, Captain Chandra.”

I repeat the familiar idiom uttered before every flight to myself like a mantra as the storm rages outside the view port in all its chaotic glory.

I smile. The wind is a fickle mistress and favors no one.

The swirling debris kicked up by the storm reduces visibility to nil. I can only hope that the computer has put in the right alignment to the cyclone bearing down on me, otherwise my ship and its cargo of medical supplies bound for the plagues of America will be arriving late, if at all.

The ship rocks and rattles violently as the outer edge of the F5 tornado hammers sand and small stones nearing velocities of 600kph into the hull. I methodically check my instruments; land tether and stabilizers are holding fast. At this point all I can do is hold on and pray.

Compared to Storm Riding, traditional methods of flight are cake-walks, but airplanes and helicopters collect dust in museums now, relics of the past. Global climate shifts have left violent storms raging over most of the planet for the past two decades, many of which are accompanied by, as my father called them, “Fingers of Indra”, giant tornados, usually F3 or higher. These made contemporary takeoffs and landings extremely dangerous at the best of times. Nowadays, Storm Riding is the only way to fly.

All becomes suddenly calm, quiet. The winds still. I’m in the eye of the storm at the bottom of a deep well, the walls of which are a swirling tempest of cloud and dust. Constant flashes of arc lightning fills the cockpit with an eerie yellow light. High above, I glimpse a circle of pale blue sky. My exit.

Warnings chirp. I release the land tether and fire a short inertial boost from the ram-jet before the storm passes by, leaving me grounded. The sudden vertical hop shoots up the well until she becomes firmly caught in the twisting whirlwind, like a genie trapped in a bottle made of furious zephyrs.

I engage fins, which fan out to catch the insides of the cyclone, turning the ship into a massive windmill. A high-pitched whine begins as the outer hull spins rapidly around its core, super-charging batteries for the long flight ahead. Gyroscopes hold my cockpit relatively stable as spirals up, up, up the tornado’s lightning wreathed runway until, at last, she bursts through the troposphere into a new kingdom above the clouds; a continent of white mountains beneath a clear blue sky.

I disengage the fins, which fold neatly back into place against the hull. For a moment all is quiet and serene as reaches the zenith of her parabola and hangs suspended in sublime freefall.

“We’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto,” I mutter quietly.

“Indra 2-whisky,” Control cuts in suddenly, breaking the spell, “Did not copy that last.”

“Flight altitude achieved. Engaging gliders and setting course for TransLant crossing.”

“Bravo Zulu, Indra. Happy trails.”

May the wind be in my favor.”

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Even a Non Corporeal Can Get Lonely

Author : David K Scholes

Deep Space
The Far Future

The entity slowed down to take in the grandeur of it all.

It had seen much of wonder during what it considered its comparatively short existence. Black holes, neutron stars, binary star systems, magnetic pulse stars, wormholes, dimensional rifts and swirling galaxies seen from the great voids between galactic systems. It had witnessed the birth and death of planets and whole planetary systems.

It had seen all manner of alien civilizations. From great star fleets of empire to humble probes that had traveled much further than their creators had ever imagined. From worlds teeming with untold billions to so many, many lifeless worlds each of these still containing their own kind of beauty.

The entity never ceased to tire of this. Even now it had much to learn and the secrets of the Universe continued to unfold for it.

Of course it wasn’t all tourism. The entity and those of its ilk had been tasked by their creator to save lives, even civilizations, where possible. It might be the life of a single space farer or a whole civilization whose sun was about to go nova. It might be a single star ship approaching the event horizon of a black hole, or an entire star fleet threatened by a cosmic storm.

The entity had not been this way before and now before it was the Multiverse’s only interdimensional black hole. That is to say a black hole existing in every dimension at the same time. The entity saw that it was not as massive as what the corporeals called the super massive black holes that it had seen at the core of many Galaxies but it was far more magnificent.

Yet even at this most magnificent moment, since it had acquired its current near omnipotent form, the entity felt something gnawing at it. As if despite all the grandeur surrounding it there was something absent, something missing from its existence.

Then it detected a telepathic communication. Not from across the void but actually quite close. From one of its own kind. Often it forgot that it was not unique. Its creator had discouraged fraternization indeed even communication among its kind. Also the Universe, let alone the Multiverse was a rather large place.

The communication was faint at first – tentatively probing.

“A place of magnificence,” it telepathed “do you detect the vast numbers of dimensional rifts leading to so many other dimensions? Can you sense still the energy signatures of starships even star fleets that fell into the singularity. The life essences of all those that perished here?”

“It is like a vast intertemporal archive,” the entity telepathed back.

Then there was telepathic silence. A rather long silence. Followed by an entirely different communication.

“Fred, is that you? I recognize your small residual corporeal life force signature. We all still have them you know.”
“Bill, Bill Norris from Lyndhurst in the New Forest,” the entity responded. “What would be the odds against our meeting in our current forms and in this place?”

There was telepathic silence again – an even longer silence.

The entity once known as Bill Norris of Lyndhurst, near Southampton, England, Earth finally responded. “I miss those days Fred. Having a pint of ale in the pub. A walk in the New Forest. And other things.

Then there was telepathic silence for a very long time as the galactic entity recalled every single detail of his former life as the corporeal entity Fred Nerk originally of Basingstoke, England, Earth.


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Author : Duncan Shields, Staff Writer

The worst thing about their weapons was the silence. They flickered like a strobe light but anyone caught in that beam had a layer of meat burned off for every flash. They melted like snowmen in a microwave but snowmen didn’t have bones or blood. And they didn’t scream like my daughter did. I’m all that’s left of my family now and this group of starving, dead-eyed refugees might be all that’s left of the human race for all I know. Communication devices have been black for over a year.

The aliens themselves didn’t scream, grunt, or shout. They didn’t even breathe. They appeared to communicate through sheer intuition or a form of telepathy that our scientists didn’t have time to figure out before the world ended.

The blue creatures moved quickly and silently. The ones that we’d managed to cut open were a dark blue, dense sponge of meat all the way through. No internal organs or circulatory system. It was a mystery why they’d assumed human form. Without bones or organs, they could probably be whatever shape they liked. They even had five fingers and toes. Maybe they were fabricated and we were used as a blueprint.

No face, though. Or Ears. Just a smooth blue skin covering their sexless bodies as they silently found us and exterminated us with those silent, horrifying weapons.

The sixteen of us huddling here in the dark underneath a shattered highway are starving. We haven’t seen a living plant or animal in a week. There’s plenty of rain to drink but I can’t be sure that it isn’t poisoning us. We aren’t military. We’re just a random group of people that ended up together after fleeing attacks. Mice that hid in the same place. Labourers, cooks, store-clerks, a data entry technician and me, a retired teacher. Well, I guess we’re all retired now.

If the aliens are prioritizing their victims by threat, we are low on the list. Sometimes I think that’s the only reason we’re still alive. Simply too pathetic to expend effort on at the moment. But they’ll get around to us soon enough.

There weren’t any demands when they showed up. Just a routing of our planet.

As we sit here under the jut of ruined asphalt listening to the rain, I think back to the battles I’ve seen, the people I’ve lost, and wonder how long we have left. I don’t feel like I’ll ever be full or dry or warm again.

I remember the first battle footage; our soldiers dying and screaming, our weapons making a frightening amount of noise. Our bullets just sank a few inches into their flesh and stopped. The ones we did manage to destroy didn’t panic the others. They kept coming like animated scarecrows. The aliens’ silent weapons and quiet advance worked against us morale wise. At first we seemed fierce but after the tide turned and it was only us crying and moaning, they seemed like the living embodiment of the end of our time here. Like a living eraser come to quietly smother us, to put our race to sleep.

Then I remember them working their way through our apartment and I have to stop thinking.

I don’t know if we’re being terraformed, mined, or just destroyed.

Perhaps they are the equivalent of oven cleaner and their makers will come down to live on a fresh planet.

The aliens could be standing right around the corner and we’d never know because they don’t make a sound.

I listen for silence and wait for the death that silence will bring.

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Endless Sun

Author : Aiza Mohd

Today is our last day on Earth.

This morning, I beheld the sun rising over the Arctic. From all the way down in our dwelling, it felt like it was worlds away.

Behind me I saw Naamin. She’d discovered her brother, who’d died in the night, while I pretended to sleep.

There in our kingdom of water and silence, we buried our dead as the sun came up. There was just enough light to paint our surroundings. The muted horror of awakening to gone relatives. The urgency of hiding them, from the far-reaching expeditions of human science.

That nemesis drove us from every home in the past age, exacerbating every attempt to prolong our existence until we were constrained to planet Earth’s most undiscovered world: the oceans.

We weren’t made for such suffocating life. Water such as this was rare back on Marikh; we had avoided the oceans for as long as we could until Earthland was no longer an option.

Closing my eyes to Naamin’s grief, I spoke. ‘Fola led his faction away, while you slept. There are two vessels left. And fewer supplies.’

‘Then let’s leave. Please.’

She was scrabbling in the earth. The dead lay all around us. Nearby, I saw someone leaning over a lost love.

‘Where did Fola go?’

I recalled what a dead friend had told me once, about human knowledge of the universe. His faction had sampled a human, a well-read one who spoke of white holes and lenticular galaxies. We used to do this sometimes, to assess just how far humanity had travelled.

‘He means to reach a faraway planet long dismissed as dead,’ I answered. ‘I don’t believe his craft will even get halfway.’

‘There never was one as resigned as yourself,’ she spat with sudden venom. ‘You’ll doom us all to your deadened dreams.’

‘This planet is at its peak,’ I said. ‘Do you remember what it was like up there?’

‘Yes,’ she said, ‘I remember. I remember that up there was beautiful and full of life. There were things to see, dangers to run from. And I remember brightness.’ She stood, abandoning the task of digging her brother’s grave. ‘I remember something to live for.’

I said nothing. Overhead, a dark creature swims rapidly away.

‘You see?’ she said softly. ‘Even if we stay, the ocean floor is no longer ours. Earth was never ours — each time, the universe created a new inhabitant for whatever place we’d dare to try to steal. Our time is up.

‘You’ve seen our civilisation rise and fall– you’ve suffered, grandfather. But there’s nothing for us here.’

Emotion, a phenomenon from the distant past, swelled up and soared through me. It bent my heart double and smashed it.

‘I’ve chased our entire existence into a corner.’

‘No, Premier,’ spoke gently the mourner I had seen earlier. ‘You’ve done only what you’ve had to do. But I agree with Naamin.’ The woman was approaching us. ‘Though what lies beyond is uncertain, I would go to my end seeking a better grave. Continuity for the sake of continuity is for nothing, when all we do is bury our dead. We have defied the universe for far too long.’

I was silent, defeated. A tired old man. Naamin led me by the hand to a vessel as some others followed suit. ‘One day,’ she said, ‘humans will be faced with this choice too.’

Now we are leaving, abandoning this dark and rippling realm, leaving everything we ever were behind us. I am holding my breath, I am waiting … anticipating that dazzling burst of sunlight.

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Future War 3

Author : Mordecai J Banda

Michael had come back from his daily walk. He had eaten his breakfast and attended to various things to keep himself healthy. Now it was gaming time.

This past month the Future Warfare 3 had had a special event that called on worldwide cooperative multiplayer event. Michael personally didn’t like this but the reward was amazing: 100 dollars per kill.

His parents sent him enough money, but in the past week he had gained a small fortune in this event and he didn’t intend to stop.

It was no lie to say that at that moment he was the number one gamer on the planet.

And the military loved him for this.

“He’s a pretty knowledgeable kid… Are you sure he won’t figure out what’s happening? This could be a big scandal.” The Head Technician spoke to The Director of Future War’s company, Octagon. They were in a decommissioned space station control room.

“Michael Black will not know for at least some weeks, and by then the third world war would have been won.”

“Really? One boy?”

“Are you seeing what he’s doing on the field? The soldiers are even starting pray to their bots ‘for his soul to descend.'”

“Amazing.” The technician shook his head in surprise. He was both commenting on what The Director had said and on a particularly skillful headshot that Michael had executed.

The heads up display was as Michael saw it from his rig. The techs on this side were the ones who saw the important stuff: Core temperature, power supply and so on.

There were three teams. One of them overlooked the particular bot that Michael was using, the other two divided labor into running basic diagnostics on the other bots that had lower level players using them.

The Director was pleased with himself. Rarely did plans ever go so perfectly. Disregarding the actual commanders of the field, his side had gone swimmingly.

As an alternative to nukes robots were visited as an option to mass destruction on a manageable scale. World War Three, though not widely known, had begun. The robots were miraculously finished, but the biggest obstacle was Artificial Intelligence. It was beyond the minds, abilities and funding of this generation. However, there was a wealthy resource that they could tap into if they wanted killer machines: the online gaming world.

It was crazy but they tried it out. Soon enough they had the gamers fighting for their country and they didn’t even know it.

Future War 3 was chosen as the bearer of this project. It was far from the ideal where all the soldiers on the field were robots, but it was good enough for now.

The Director smiled sympathetically as Michael was shot and ‘killed’. On the console it showed an apparently random countdown that in actuality was showing the download time for Michael to access another bot. This time it took two minutes and Michael was back at it again. He approached the camp that had exterminated him, vaulting over a trench and raining death upon the soldiers with godly skill.

It was a pity, but Michael was killing real humans. The Director had lied to the technician. If the boy found out it would be bad. It only depended on whether he would accept it or not.

But The Director trusted Michael was someone who looked to the future, who looked forward to advancement. He had ascended from gamer to patriot after all.

“It’s Michael! It’s Michael!” Some relieved rookie soldiers cheered with awe.

The Director smiled. More like a guardian angel.


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