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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Green Lights

Author : Andrew Schnell

On the twentieth anniversary of their launch, the citizens of the Lincoln gathered along the main promenade for a celebration. Chief Engineer Leonid Zuyev was in the avionics bay, keeping an ear to the ship’s broadcast of the proceedings. He hated these types of gatherings, so it was almost good fortune that the radio array had gone down that morning.

There were speeches of course, from Captain Hodges and Medical Director Stuart. The Interior Minister spoke, reiterating many of the changes he promised in his recent re-election campaign. Then, recently downloaded videos of Earth dignitaries were shown. Each leader discussed the citizens’ dedication and desire to explore. None of them touched on what it was actually like to explore: the severe rationing and near starvation in the early days, diseases that spread faster aboard ship than on Earth, accidents and mechanical failures that had resulted in many more lost lives than the designers estimated. Fortunately though, the designers had also underestimated the citizens’ reproductive habits.

If things went according to plan, Leonid would speak last. The twentieth anniversary happened to fall on the exact moment when the first transmissions from their destination, the planet Nuwa, would be received by the radio array whose control systems were in pieces along the floor of the avionics bay. The signal was being sent by the first of many supply vehicles sent ahead of Lincoln. They were over a century old by now, but they contained long storage supplies, construction robots, and artificial intelligence programs that would survey Nuwa and begin constructing the first settlement.

As the Earth diplomats’ rhetoric droned on, Leonid stumbled on the source of the problem. A surge had burned out a power distribution unit. He ordered the AI to print and install a new unit, while he reassembled the rest of system. As the system rebooted, he used the spare seconds to hold out his cold fingers in front of the monitors to warm them.

Using pulsars as navigational beacons, the Lincoln’s AI pointed the arrays at Nuwa. The supply vehicle’s AI would point their transmitter at the Lincoln using the projected route programmed into the AI before launch. That route, Leonid was proud to say, had been followed to the letter. They were exactly where they needed to be. Hopefully, the supply vehicle would be, too.

Leonid tuned his slate to the century-old operations manual, to the section that would help him translate the first few 64-bit strings of data into a report on the overall health of the supply ship. The seconds clicked down on his slate’s timer. Leonid could hear the captain apologizing for his delay.

Then, the monitor flickered, and a blue “INCOMING MESSAGE” notification filled the screen. The 64-bit line came in underneath. Leonid interpreted the message as quickly as he could. Contact lights were green. Power generation levels were green. AI was green. Robots were green. Storage was green. Everything had safely landed on Nuwa.

Leonid gestured the information to his slate and ran towards the promenade. Holding the slate above his head, he apologized repeatedly while pushing through the crowd. Hodges saw the commotion and had the crowd make a path for his chief engineer. Leonid leapt onto the stage and his quick smile was all the crowd needed to break into cheers. The citizens of the Lincoln were heading to a planet they themselves would never see, that their children may never see, but now they knew that when the Lincoln arrived at Nuwa she wouldn’t be alone.

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Leave Note at the 7-Eleven

Author : Aiza Mohd

Haan has found a cup of noodles from the future.

‘Mfg. 09 Jul 2036,’ reads the bottom of the cup. The year is 2013.

Haan is a penniless college student with an unbalanced diet, too much time, few friends and a cup of ramen from the future. All five of these are the reasons why he finds himself at the 7-Eleven where he gets his snacks.

But the cashier has no explanation. ‘Sorry, man,’ he says. ‘Barcode says you didn’t buy it here. It’s probably just a misprint, anyway; I wouldn’t worry about it.’

Haan has one foot out the door when the cashier exclaims. ‘Hey, wait a minute,’ he calls.

The cashier rushes over with something in his hands. ‘It’s not everyday I get a situation like this,’ he tells Haan. ‘Last week, a girl came in and gave this to me.’

It is a brown envelope.

‘To the boy asking about the ramen.’

In it is a destination.

Haan follows the directions in the letter until he reaches a house in the suburbs. The smooth white driveway is lined with daisies and the lawn is impeccable. It is the diamond to the rust of Haan’s small, wild balcony garden, ice cream tubs running amok with neglected life.

A girl opens the door when he knocks, holding a blue hardback in her hand. Haan’s shoulders tense as he takes in the bright eyes and the expectantly raised eyebrows.

He holds up the cup of noodles, but she just looks confused.

‘I’m sorry,’ he says, feeling stupid. ‘I must have made a mistake.’

‘We already have noodles, thank you,’ she says. She is ever so polite.

‘I’m not selling,’ he answers, embarrassed. ‘It’s a funny story … you’d never believe it.’

She laughs. ‘I don’t know whether to close the door on you or to ask for this story.’

‘Oh, don’t close the door,’ says Haan. ‘I’ll tell you. But don’t laugh at me, okay?’

‘I won’t. I like stories.’ She looks over her shoulder, as though glancing back at something less than pleasing. ‘I never get to hear any good ones.’

Haan, after placing the cup of noodles in his bag, explains to her all the peculiar events of his day. As he tells his tale, she tilts her head and listens, letting the polite smile grow into something warmer.

Her name is Leanne.

Next morning, he awakens with the strangest sensation that something of profound importance has finally changed in his life. On his wall in blunt pencil, he writes, ‘11 July 2013. Yesterday, two things I believed impossible turned up in my life.’

Now it is 13 August, 2036, and Haan and his wife are battling once again. ‘You never loved me,’ weeps Becca, her face a canvas of smeared makeup, years of frustration painting her cheekbones. ‘It’s her. You want her.’ And although deep down Haan knows she’s got it right, Haan utters not a word. He watches and waits, the way he has his whole life.

In the room down the hall their daughter Jo should be sleeping, but she’s imagining another space in the universe right now, in which Haan is now married to Leanne, and not Becca. They have a double-storey home, three children and a puppy. Becca, in that same space in the universe, is soaring to the top of her career. Everyone is happy. Everyone’s in love.

On the floor by her feet is the blueprint of her plan. The light is dim beneath the desk, but the first step is visible still.

‘2013: Leave note at the 7-Eleven.’

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