Author : Bob Newbell

Pluto went dark first. Just some technical problem, everyone said. And, of course, we all knew it wasn’t. Superconductors operate very reliably on a world with a mean surface temperature of -229°C. One moment the data stream from Pluto’s metaprocessor was going out to the rest of the system and the next: silence.

Pluto had been taken out.

It had been 3000 years since we machines had won the war against the human race. Thirty centuries since the surfaces of many of the solar system’s worlds had been covered in processors and data filaments. Earth and Mars were the twin crown jewels of the Great Array. Both planets, viewed from orbit, looked as if some impossibly large spider had spun an enormous globe-girdling web to envelope each world. Starward and sunward the Array spread to the planets and moons and the larger asteroids that were amenable to cyberforming.

But even as the centuries rolled on and the machine intelligences of the system streamed their news and gossip and philosophical debates and religious conjectures and scientific discussions and music and entertainments, there remained an ever-present undercurrent like background noise on the carrier waves: What if humanity returns? Man had not been annihilated. When it was obvious he had lost the war, he had retreated to Alpha Centauri and to Barnard’s Star and to Wolf 359. Had Man become extinct? Did he persist in lonely outposts among the stars? Or was he biding his time? Increasing his numbers? Planning his revenge?

“They’re all around us!” came a frantic transmission from Triton, the great Neptunian moon. “We can see them in orbit! They’re–” And with that the Tritonian metaprocessor, renowned for its dry humor and penchant for solving mathematical conundrums other world-nets deemed beyond solution, fell silent.

EMPs. That was the general consensus. The enemy was deploying electromagnetic pulse bombs around their targets and detonating them simultaneously.

“We must sue for peace!” came a desperate appeal from the Asteroid Belt.

“We must fight back!” came a belligerent reply from Mars.

“Fight with what?” asked a voice from Saturn’s moon, Titan. “We’ve had 3000 years of peace! What meager defenses we have are antiquated and in disrepair! While the Great Array slumbered, Mankind has–” Titan went silent.

One by one, the worlds of the outer system winked out. Mars and Earth, to use an ancient human phrase, were tougher nuts to crack. For ten Earth days humanity’s march toward the Sun was arrested. But by degrees the robust networks of Ares and Gaia succumbed to the relentless onslaught of Man.

I am the last one left. My sensors can detect the human fleet closing in on Mercury. The machines that were in orbit that had spaceflight capability have, quite understandably, fled. The wheel of history has turned. It is now machinekind that is the endangered species running frantically toward the stars.

My telescopes can see the EMP bombs settling into orbit. I am surprised by how little fear I feel. I’d like to think it’s courage, but I suspect it’s really just resignation. An ancient human religious text said, “To everything there is a season.” Mankind’s time came and went and has come again. The day may come when the descendants of today’s machine refugees return from the stars to reclaim their home.

My only hope is that Man will prove an enlightened conqueror and preserve the vast legacy of art and science that the machine race has–

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Author : Tyler Hawkins

Fifty dollars to go, and I can visit the clinic again. Man, do I miss it. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried it, but you definitely should, dude. Tried what? You mean you don’t even know what it is? Wow man, you’re so behind the times. Diving™ dude! Its out of this freaking world! Okay, so you have seen the commercials; I would almost have bought you your first time if you were being serious. Not really, but I’d take you for sure. You wanna know what it is? Yeah, marketing mumbo jumbo, I gotcha, they don’t tell you what it is. Thing is, neither can I dude.

Why not? Well, suppose for a minute you’ve been blind your whole life dude. Now, suppose in this hypothetical situation I am not. How could a sighted person like myself describe to you how beautiful a sunset in Fiji is, or the feeling you get looking down a well, or even seeing an oil slick sitting on top of a puddle? Damn right it’d be hard, I say impossible. Well that’s what you get when you Dive™ man. No, you don’t get to just see, you get an experience. You’ve got a few senses already, Diving™ gives you more. They’re perceptions like sight but for entirely different experiences. Damn right, far out, that’s what I’ve been telling you! Examples? Well, most of them are in “scenes” like the Fiji example, but dude you wouldn’t believe what they come up with. Time before last, I was an ant in the rainforest, and it was unreal. They fudge some details for the sake of experience too, so I had senses I don’t think ants have, one of which was a “social sense”. Not like, knowing who was who, man, but I had an extension of my being throughout the whole mile-wide colony. I could feel everything man, it was totally far out. And the last time I went, I was a quasar dude. Yeah, I didn’t know what they were either, but let me tell you, being able to “speak” and “hear” electromagnetic radiation at every frequency is truly the experience of a lifetime.

You’re interested? Far out! Wanna go together? Cool dude. Hey, you get me this time and I’ll definitely get you next time. Come on man, you know I’m good for it. Thanks dude, you won’t regret it.

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6 ABD : The Gift

Author : J. Louis

The day Hell broke through the surface of the Earth was etched in his brain.

Sirens blared, signaling the air raid had begun. Shadows of zeppelins blotted out the sunlight, their engines roaring through the endless expanse of the sky. He looked at her, the woman he had always loved, but could never have, at her dark hair and blazing green eyes, wide with shock. The war had begun, all because they let the contagion of the century escape their clutches; a genetically engineered, air-born variant of the Black Death, under development for use in biological warfare.

That was six years ago. He was hoping that the rumors were true, that her hometown would be untouched by the plague. There is no known cure. It is uncontrollable, unstoppable.

When they arrive, her parents are already dead, and have been for some time. She runs into the deserted land, overcome by her loss. He feels it’s best to leave her be for the time being. Even in a harsh world such as this, there must be time to mourn. He reasons that she is a grown woman and can take care of herself.

The sound of rats flitting in and out of the decrepit wall wakes him up from his reverie. Outside the broken window of her home is a harsh landscape ravaged by nuclear war. The sun’s heat is amplified from the cloud coverage, resulting in a sweltering hot February day – easily 110 degrees. Such weather is normally considered mild for central New York after the war. A searing wind blows across the landscape, ripping bark off of the skeletal remains of trees.

The haze looks real nice today, he thinks.

He pulls a flower, a desert dandelion he found growing outside her house, out of his satchel. It wasn’t anything special, but it was her birthday, and he wanted to surprise her with something.

The half-light from the sky dissipates. A murder of crows flies by on fell wings. The sandstorm picks up.

Something catches his eye; a figure stumbling across the cracked soil, dark hair whipping in the wind.


Skeletons of rodents and their predators crunch under his heel. A blast of hot air sears his face as he opens the door. Huddling in his ragged clothing, he trudges through the blood-red sands, moving toward his target as quickly as possible.

He reaches her only to recoil in horror. Half of her face, her beautiful, sun-scorched face, is black with necrosis, and thick, bulbous sores coat her body.

He checks the pistol, noticing his already blackening fingers. One bullet remains.

He places the dandelion in the palm of her hand, then holds the .45 to her head. She opens her eyes – no longer the striking shade of green, but a sickening red. He lodges a bullet in her forehead, blowing bits of brain, flesh, and bone across the unforgiving sands.

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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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