Author : Kellie Warren
We never thought we would be the ones. We weren’t smart enough. To discover new worlds, new planes of existence, new life. You had to be intelligent for that. Some might have been arrogant enough to call themselves intelligent but they were only fools. The Thinkers thought another would find us first, uncover our planet and take it to replace their own dying one.
They were partially right.
The fear grew so great amongst them that they teamed up for the first time in history. They pooled ideas, resources, even their minds they eventually linked together leaving their bodies to rot in a dark dusty room as their thoughts were fed into a computer.
Originally they created new weapons to counteract our own then ones to counteract those. They built refugee stations. The rich could reserve rooms in one high above the ground or one bedded deep within the soil. If you couldn’t afford two rooms you gambled on which would be safest when…if an attack happened.
With each improvement the hysteria grew; more and more donated personal resources to the Thinkers for protection from the imagined enemy. The Thinkers entered into group consciousness so they no longer required food or sleep.
They became the Machine.
They hired the Workers, mindlessly following what the Machine told them. We don’t blame the Workers for what happened, at least I don’t, I can’t. They only built what they were told to, providing for their tribes, not knowing what horror they were creating with their own hands.
The Thinkers took the idea of running or hiding from too far. According to them our planet was indefensible. We couldn’t wait until the attack happened we had to get out before that, find another planet, another home. Do the exact thing we wanted to protect ourselves from. They didn’t see it that way though.
Individuals who thought they had the answer began to link their minds creating their own machines, believing they could escape the group consciousness when the problem was solved and flee with everyone else.
Smaller machines began to spring up in all nations, entire tribes would connect to each other leaving Workers to connect them to other machines deemed worthy. They learned how to connect without being near each other; Workers were no longer needed so they linked too.
The Original Machine could not see what it began. Cities fell into disrepair, nation followed soon after. No one was left unlinked to keep up with maintenance.
The Machines became a species of their own, conquering, killing, feeding off others, even Individuals. Some Individuals tried fleeing with their families to the Thinkers’ self sustaining stations, the Machines found them, stealing their conscious and making it their own. The Machines couldn’t remember they were once like them, the Individuals, let alone how to return to that state.
This foreign species, the Machines, took my planet, once their own, to replace their dying one they themselves had killed trying to protect.
Hopefully when you find this message this species will be eradicated and you, whoever you are, can begin to build this planet anew. Restore it to its former glory or beyond.
I am the last Individual, the original Thinker who pitched the idea and the original chosen to remain unlinked as the original Worker. Only I saw what was happening now I must reverse my work from the inside.
The screen turned black, the message once again falling on a deaf planet in an empty universe with no one to heed the warning.
“We never thought we would be the ones…”
Author : Glen Luke Flanagan
“These monstrosities are a threat to national security, to morality as we know it, and to our very sense of self.”
Senator Ethan Calhoun punctuated the last statement by pounding his fist onto the podium. The fiery Texan was the face of the anti-cloning movement in America, and he delivered his message with the deftness of a politician and the fervor of a charismatic minister.
He stepped down from the podium, waved to the cheering crowd, and let his ever-present team of doctors lead him away. It was no secret that despite his vigor, Mr. Calhoun was not a healthy man.
“Sir, you shouldn’t work yourself up like that,” a young, red-haired, white-coated physician cautioned.
The senator coughed into a clenched fist.
“What’s your name, son?”
“Cameron, sir.” The doctor bustled about the senator, hooking him up to various machines and pausing to glance at the readings.
“Cameron.” The senator laid a hand on the doctor’s arm and held him momentarily still, looking into his eyes intently. “I had a son just about your age. Do you know what happened to him?”
The doctor was silent. Everyone in Calhoun’s entourage knew what had happened to the senator’s son.
“The Russians killed him, Cameron, and put a monster in his place. A monster that looked just like him, that lived in my house and broke bread with me each morning. I only found out about it when the damn thing broke down into a puddle of piss and water – unstable DNA, the scientists tell me.”
Calhoun released his hold on the doctor’s sleeve, but still held him with his eyes.
“So I’ll work myself up all I damn please,” he finished.
Later, the young man called Cameron showed his data to another doctor, with piercing gray eyes and silvering hair.
“It’s not good,” he said. “He’s wearing himself out, breaking down more quickly than we anticipated.”
The senior doctor thumbed through the pages, nodding in frustrated agreement.
“We’ll have to whip up a replacement ahead of schedule,” she said.
Thomas Calhoun turned restlessly in bed, trying to nap. The doctors insisted it was good for his health, but he was happiest when active. The silken sheets chafed, and the expansive hotel suite suffocated him. He was about to give up the fight and go in search of a bar when the door opened and a team of nervous lab techs trundled in another of the gadgets he so despised. The silver-haired doctor followed, giving directions.
The senator growled at the lab techs, then sat up and wrapped a sheet around himself.
“Clarice,” he grunted. “You could give a fellow warning. I’m not decent.”
“It’s nothing I haven’t seen before, Thomas.” Her tone was clipped. “We just need to run a few scans.”
She waved at the technicians, who hurried to attach electrodes to Calhoun’s forehead. He gave in with a resigned snort, and lay back down. At some point during the process, he drifted into a deep slumber.
Still later, in an improvised laboratory, Clarice MacKale watched over what appeared to be an oversized fish tank. Inside the tank, an imperfect replica of the Texas senator was being pumped full of nutrients and sculpted into an ever-more-human shape.
MacKale punched a number into her cell phone, and spoke furtively.
“We’ve had to make another replacement, but we’re still on track. The senator’s campaign will continue as planned.”
Author : Desmond Hussey, Staff Writer
I needed to disappear. Fast.
I never wanted a criminal life. It’s not like I killed anybody, or stole the nation’s pension plans, unlike some governments which shall go unmentioned.
No. It was much more banal than that. I reneged on my student loans. Now I’m a wanted man.
Like many students hoping to get ahead in the world, I jumped into a full Master’s Program at a decent, but far from ivy league university, with visions of future grandeur making the stress inducing course load marginally bearable. Like every student, I was promised a well paid job upon graduation.
I did my time, studied hard. After graduating with honors and flinging my square, black cap into the air along with thousands of other students, all determined to make their dreams realities, I learned some hard truths we weren’t taught in school. There simply weren’t any jobs for us. Never had been. Maybe ten of every hundred graduates found employment in their chosen field, most through their parent’s corporate enterprise; the Golden Boys and Girls, whose futures were paved in gold the day they were born.
As for me, well…
I was unemployed and the proud owner of a 250,000 credit Criminology Degree.
Six months later the phone calls and e-mails started. It was the Bank. They wanted their money back.
I used up my two deferrals, buying myself some time, but time, like my meager savings, inevitably ran out. The phone calls resumed. The e-mails spawned. It was time to pay up.
After five years of searching within my field, the best work I could dredge up was as a Baker’s assistant; waking at 5 am, making thick dough for minimum wage. The Bank garnished 30% of every credit I earned.
At this rate, with added interest, it would take two lifetimes to pay off my loan.
Arthur Hanover needed to disappear.
I decided to put my Criminology Degree to work. Disappearing people wasn’t easy in the 2030’s, but I’d learned how. Everyone was numbered, coded and tagged at birth. If you weren’t in the system, you couldn’t do squat. Couldn’t even purchase a toothbrush without an I-phone, except on the black market. Mark if the Beast if ever I saw one.
My phone was the first to go. Not that I had any credit anyway, plus phones were traceable.
I pitched my ID, changed my name, dyed my hair and managed to barter some ancient LP’s – classics, mint condition – for a pair of retinal coded contacts.
A doctor friend from University was in the same boat I was; ran an underground clinic for the disenfranchised. I called in some favors and had him remove the IRF chip implanted in my thigh.
Debt between friends is so much easier to pay back than a bank loan. “Honor amongst thieves”, I s’pose.
I’d hoped to find a quiet place to live out the rest of my days as Devon Walsh. A nobody. A non-entity. Maybe meet a girl and eke out some humble existence. If being a Baker’s assistant was all there was for me, I conceded to settle for it. It could be worse.
They caught up with me in a hover station outside Whitehorse. Cyborg sniffer-dogs tracked my DNA all the way from Toronto. Betrayed by my own DNA. You really can’t change who you are.
Criminal Loan Default.
I’ve been drafted. My loan was bought and I’m bound for the front lines. NorAmer is at war with the Asian Federation for property interests on Mars and I’m cheap cannon fodder.
Author : Thomas Keene
Every metal surface inside the cabin sang, and the readouts flickered. A steady, pure note that Charles called “the Banshee”. Evan clenched the crew telemetry readout so hard that waves of color flowed across the display. He was the only crew member with a heartbeat.
“‘Brown dwarf’ my ass.” Evan looked over the magnetic readings one more time, and scribbled them on a notepad. Three times stronger than an hour ago, before Yuri and Charles had gone on EVA to fix the external sensors.
The metallic ringing increased in pitch, and two more monitors in the cabin flashed error messages before shorting out. Evan shook himself. “I’m already dead. No propulsion, no computers, flying blind, gonna crash into a star at one-third cee in a week…”
Evan pulled himself along the rungs to the canteen. He drunk a liter of sugar-water as he stared out the port at the slow-moving bluish starfield. After a few minutes his breathing slowed, and he wiped the sweat from his face with a towel.
The ringing sound dropped half a note and Evan flinched. “Maybe… Maybe the magnetic anomaly is blocking their telemetry signals. They could be alive. I’ll just duck out for a quick look.”
Evan pulled himself to the back of the crew compartment. He stared wide-eyed at the airlock as he stroked the fabric of one of the pressure suits. “Wish I could use a hardsuit, but nobody’s here to close it. Hell… Dead, dead…” He suited up and started the cycle.
The ringing became quieter and quieter. Evan could feel a small buzzing in the joints of his suit, but if he breathed deeply he could barely hear it. He sat in the open airlock for fifteen minutes, staring at the slowly-shifting starfield that trailed behind the ship with his arms pressed against the walls of the chamber.
Then the ringing became a sharp whine inside his helmet. Evan curled up and gasped, then flailed and grabbed a rung at the edge of the airlock. He took a deep breath and pulled himself through the door.
To his left was the fore of the ship, with the back of the ablative shield sitting as a large, dark pentagon with reddish stars slowing spreading from its edges. He carefully inspected it for holes, some sign of damage, but it was perfectly intact. Then he looked to his right and threw up in his helmet.
It was Yuri, his hardsuit’s steel-faced helmet ripped clean off. His face was pale and still. One side of his body was charred black, and white vapors leaked from it. His intact arm was held stiff, close to his face. Evan choked and coughed as he jerked his head around, and the vomit eventually moved to the side.
Evan turned back to the airlock. He pulled himself forward on the rung, but met resistance. He pushed on the rung to look behind him, and a bright white glow filled his vision.
Her upper body was chalk-white and slender. She had human clear-blue eyes, Evan stared into them with his mouth agape. Her tail was a thousand-meter long strand of twisting rarefied plasma curled around half the length of the ship.
She floated closer and took him by the shoulders, then kissed his visor. It bubbled apart under the heat and his suit depressurized in an instant. He screamed soundlessly as she caressed his face, his cheeks baking in the solar wind as he drowned beneath the starry waves of the void.
Author : Scott Shipp
Ian was cornered. He had run straight into a dead end alley. Right on his heels were two cyborg cops, and he had the money credits hacked from the bank all over his data stores. There was no escape. Lucky for him, he was augmented with an eye implant that drew his computer screen directly onto his retina. His brain had both a processor and an organic hard drive jacked directly into the basal ganglia. He checked his computer readout. No. He wasn’t going anywhere. The only way out was to climb up the walls. And they were smooth as silk.
Cursing, he opened the shutdown script. The shutdown script would encrypt and backup the data to a cloud drive, including his entire mind, then it would wipe everything, even his brain, and this would cause him to die.
He ran it.
“Stop right there!”
Both cyborg cops bore down on him, ready to scan his mind and prove his guilt. Then, death.
He awoke. Friends had told him rumors of what it was like, but he wasn’t prepared for this. Although there was no more body to care for, his mind, now digitized, still felt the existence of an entire phantom body, itching and burning and twitching. He screamed in agony, though there was no sound.
He closed his phantom eyes and tried to focus.
“Must get the credits to Amy, must get the credits to Amy.”
Through the burning, he tried to interface with the system around him. None of it made sense. Everything was unusual. He requested memory, and he saw purple. He tried to ask what data stores were available, and he tasted pineapple and smelled burning rubber.
“I need to learn this new language.”
But he was already exhausted. He slept.
Weeks and months went by. He learned the meaning of purple, and pineapple, and each sensation only by experimenting with each request. He feared accidentally closing his program, or, worse, deleting himself. Once, after he had felt something like vibrations in teeth, a sea of digits swam up before him. He learned it was a man page, a help file in the system that described one of the commands available. It took awhile to learn how to read the man files, but once he did, it was a huge leap forward.
Months more flew by. He learned that he was inside a web server. It was part of a web hosting company. He started to gain more confidence, learning more about each interface. He learned new protocols. He pinged the network. He spoke the language of routers and switches.
And one day he reached the outside world.
Amy sighed, pouring her tea and holding back her tears. The grief was still too much to bear.
“Oh, Ian,” she said to his picture on the wall. “It wasn’t worth it.”
She felt the familiar ache behind her eyes and in her heart and clamped down on it. No use crying any more, was there? Nothing could bring him back.
Her phone beeped. She took it out and looked at the text message.
“Deposit notification: 80,000,000 credits.”
Her eyes grew wide. She checked her bank account. Indeed, it was there. Was it Ian? She smiled a little. He must have somehow scheduled the money to be deposited before he died.
Her phone beeped again. She looked at it. The mug went tumbling across the floor, the phone followed. Tea splattered out.
On the phone, it said simply: “I’m alive.”