Sowing The Seeds

Author : Clint Wilson, Staff Writer

Eddy and Rico performed the mundane task of sifting through tailings. It was standard procedure. All the valuable ore had been extracted from the captured asteroids, but the leftover rubble might still contain significant matter; so it was all to be gone through carefully.

It was easy enough to get the tons of debris and dust back down from the stations. Earth’s sixteen space elevators required endless counterweight to continuously lift people and goods into orbit. Yet it was strictly mandated that any captured matter from beyond our atmosphere must be immediately run through one of the planet’s hundreds of privately owned decontamination centers situated around the elevators.

They were both roused by an alarm buzzing on the console. “What’s that?” asked Rico. He was still pretty new.

Eddy replied nonchalantly, “We used to get lots of these false alarms in the old days. It got so irritating that we detuned the sensor arrays.” He hit a plunger, stopping the entire conveyer belt. They both looked at the screen on the console. The image there showed several pebbles amongst the debris highlighted by the computer. “Hmm, this is interesting. It says they’re all identical.”

An hour later the two had managed to sift through and procure from the rubble, thirty-seven seemingly identical oblong pebbles. The tiny items sat there on the lab counter, looking ominous, as the two discoverers passed a smoking joint back and forth.

Eddy piped up, “I think they’re seeds.”

Rico laughed, “Yeah right, we just discovered an alien life form in asteroid tailings.”

“Oh yeah?” replied Eddy. “I’ll prove it.”

Suddenly the young newbie looked concerned. “I don’t think we should…”

But it was too late. Eddy had scooped up the pebbles into his shirt and had made for the rear exit.

Rico shouted after him, “Hey, I don’t think that’s a good idea!”

But the exit door clanged shut as the other exited, so Rico jumped up, squashing the joint, and followed suit. “What are you doing you crazy bastard?” He burst through the exit door.

Eddy was crouched down there giggling as he churned the soil in the flower planter with his hands. “Come on buddy, you think we’re gonna grow some alien ganja? Live a little!” He ran off and grabbed the caretaker’s garden hose, which had been coiled up on a reel nearby; and began watering the planter.

Rico shook his head, staring at the dark soil that was now getting wetter and wetter. “Eddy, you’re nuts. We should really report those things.”

Eddy grinned and squinted at him, “For what? These guys don’t give a shit. It’s all a big….”

Suddenly there was a rumble and they both felt the ground tremble beneath their feet. Eddy froze and stared up at Rico. He released the handle of the hose nozzle and the water dribbled to a halt. Then the ground shook again, so hard that they both nearly fell over. The rich soil was suddenly seething and roiling like a thing with a life of its own. Eddy turned back to see Rico running fast for the parking lot.

Just then something massive and horrible shot forth from the planter. Eddy now knew that he had made a horrible mistake and surmised right there and then that mankind was likely to pay for his idiocy. He shut his eyes tight and prayed for the first time in years, as he was sucked up into the maw of something terrible and unknown. Mercifully, he would never realize the true mayhem he had caused.

Rico managed to live for almost another two minutes.

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Beaming Errors

Author : Duncan Shields, Staff Writer

In a city this size, a dozen or so beaming errors a year were acceptable.

In each gigantic waystation structure, the building blocks of life were kept in vats and tubs. There were huge enclosed swimming pools filled with chromosomes and proteins and cell juice. Vast, layered skin farms were rotated underneath mile-long sunlamp tubes on the upper levels.

Each facility jutted up like an architect’s dying wish on the outskirts of the major cities. They were effectively airports in a universe that had done away with air travel.

Those initial millennia of colonization were tortuous but this was the new age. All was well. To travel between the stars no longer required a spaceship.

It was found that information could be pushed faster than light while mass could not. Coded streams of electrons could be bent around the straightness of space. We made paper airplanes out of the impossible.

A person was put, naked, shivering and afraid, into a bathtub cubicle chamber on one end. The lid was closed and the dissassemblers were let in. It was fast acting acid swamped with tiny nanos that took the person apart piece by piece while recording every bit of it.

They always screamed. It was painful.

The nanos were set on ‘record’ as they tore the person apart. That information was coded into a hardbase of data which was then threaded onto an electron batch. With a focused squirt, the person’s breakdown was sent to his or her destination.

It went behind the closets of the universe, in between the cracks.

It was received seconds later by one of the mentioned white structures outside the destination city.

There, using the building blocks available, they put the coded instructions into a machine, set them to ‘reverse’, and then hit play.

It was like watching a film of melting wax being run backwards.

The person was re-built without the last ten agonizing minutes of memory from the breakdown process. The rebuilding took weeks.

Angela’s electron burst must have skirted a star because she woke up skinless, missing her legs, six of her fingers and a fair portion of her brain.

She never fully recovered. They did what they could but humans were still a little hit and miss when it came to creating people from scratch with no nanorecords.

She was taken care of wonderfully in the basements of the building. Her relatives signed waivers and become richer. She learned a few words of English to communicate. She never got the hang of her new fingers and legs. She died happily in a diaper five years later.

In a city this size, a dozen or so beaming errors a year were acceptable.


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The New World

Author : Desmond Hussey, Staff Writer

When their explorers first arrived they were few; we’d no reason to fear them. We welcomed our brothers and sisters from another world with open arms. We traded with them, celebrated with them, showed them our ways and invited them into our homes. They were so like us, and yet, so very different. They departed with promises to return with wondrous gifts.

I’ll never forget the night they returned. Beneath a sky dark and clear, I lay studying the ancient constellations twinkling in their familiar geometries, slowly unraveling their secrets throughout the seasons. Starlore held practical knowledge; when to sow, when to reap, aided those at sea, but it also told legends of monsters, heroes and wisdom. The past and the future were written in the night sky.

That night, before my eyes, many new stars appeared and grew larger. Too many to count. The Great Archer, the Winged Serpent, the Virgin and others became obscured by our visitor’s arriving ships. My heart soared. That night I anticipated a great celebration, a union of cultures, a sharing of knowledge and the beginning of an age of peace.

For three days crates of their strange metal rained upon our communities and country sides. When they broke open revealing odd trinkets, exotic cloth, food and drink we took them as the promised gifts from our star family.

Our guests from across the cosmic ocean never came down to receive our thanks. They waited in their ships while we celebrated without them. They watched us from above as we danced in their strange, new clothes, became intoxicated on their potent elixirs and fell into drunken stupors. They watched as we fought amongst ourselves over their useless trinkets. They waited as my people became sick from their alien diseases. They watched and waited as we died in the billions.

Their gift to us was death.

We’d been betrayed, yet their sickness did not take us all. When they finally descended on their iron battle horses, we met them in open war, fighting as our ancestors had taught us, with bravery and honor. But these warriors from the skies were not brave, showed no honor. They murdered without thought, burning women and children, the sick and the old with their lightning sticks. They burned ancient forests to ash and boiled seas to salt deserts.

I killed five of their warriors as they brutally raped and beat two of my sisters. I have never seen such hatred of life. They laughed mockingly as Myrrah and Nevi cried for mercy, but they will laugh no more. I killed them quickly, which was more than they deserved. I wish I could have killed five thousand more.

We lost. We never really stood a chance. It wasn’t their superior technology that overwhelmed us – a single one of our warriors is worth ten of theirs in a fair battle – but their cunning and deception was unmatchable, their strategies lacked mercy and dignity. Before they came we were six billion strong. Now, what few remain are herded like animals into crowded reservations where we must live the rest of our days, clinging to the shreds of our culture, while, beyond the electric fence, our world is consumed by the Usurpers.

Tonight, I long to see the stars once more, but my eyes cannot pierce the thick veil of smoke rising from their mines.

I wonder if somewhere, hidden within the constellation’s legends there might have been some warning, some message I missed; that one day a race called “Human” would plunder my world and destroy all that I loved.


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Author : Duncan Shields, Staff Writer

Randolph Beaucoup of the Terran Diplomacy Wing had been selected from fifty candidates for this particular First Contact mission. Little was known about the Marenko other than they were anamorphic pseudopods without discernible features. Smooth gelatinous bags that had the ability to form as many multi-fingered tentacles as needed to build or manipulate technology. The Terrans were still trying to figure out how they saw without eyes and thought without detectable brains.

There were large ones and small ones although that seemed to have no bearing on age. There was talk of one the size of an ocean but it may have been a god myth of some kind. All was unclear at this stage other than the fact that they had space-travel capability and were, by and large, peaceful.
The math constructs had been sent and received as proof of intelligence and no weaponry was detected at the landing site.

Randolph stood on the plateau a few steps away from the Terran landing plank beneath his ship, clad in a fishbowl helmet to clearly display his face and wearing a tight spacesuit that showed his musculature to curious species. It was known as the ‘nothing-to-hide’ approach. The stars twinkled above him. The Marenko balanced in front of him like a transparent slug rearing to impersonate a capital S. Unlike slugs, however, the Marenko were unnervingly quick and this one was the size of an elephant seal.

The Marenko extended a glittering flower-tipped pseudopod towards Randoplh and paused. Randolph extended his own hand and grasped the pod tip in what, in his experience, was a universal sign of greeting. A sharp pinprick zeroed in on his palm. His suit easily patched the tiny rupture as Randolph withdrew his stinging hand with an involuntary hiss of shock.

Before he could move, the Marenko extended another tentacled pad that slapped wetly up against Randolph’s helmet and stuck there.

“Hello Randolph. The earth-name I have chosen for myself is Mary.” said a pleasantly-modulated voice. The tentacle was vibrating against Randolph’s helmet to produce the sound. “It is a pleasure to meet you. This has been a delightful first contact and I am honored to be the first to produce our communication.”

Randolph thought that was an odd choice of words.

“The pleasure is mine, Mary.” he replied. “I’m happy to meet you too. I’m curious, what was the purpose of poking me like that?” he asked, tentatively hopeful that the answer would be benign.

“I needed a small tissue sample to produce our communication. You are in me now, growing. Soon you will be large enough to leave yourself here and then we can talk after you leave.”

Randolph couldn’t understand the words. The sentence must been parsed wrong in the alien’s nascent attempt at translation. “I’m afraid I don’t understand, Mary.” he said.

“Look closely at my center, Randolph.” said Mary.

Randolph looked closer at the core of the huge alien’s wavering, smooth body. There, in the center, curled up and twitching, was what looked like a tiny human baby.

A tiny baby with transparent skin and gelatinous bones. A tiny baby with dark hair and dark eyes, just like Randolph. It grew as he looked at it. A Meranko-Human hybrid of some kind.

“This version of you will stay here. We will converse. It will have your memories but it will be of my race as well. After a short amount of time, you may come to collect him and talk to him as well to gather your own information.”

“Uh…..what?”responded Randolph eloquently.

“I am, as you say, pregnant.” said Mary.


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Before Resurrection

Author : Andrew Bale

I see the truck drift across the median. In my mind, seconds become hours, but to my body, they flash by like lightning – I am paralyzed, watching my own doom in slow motion, unable to stop it. The impact is a blessing, a return to real time where the agony of my death passes like the beat of a hummingbird’s wing.

Somehow, I dream. I dream of something like a man, but not quite – he is too tall, too thin, and far, far too old. I see his life laid out before me, see his wives, his children, his vocation. It passes too fast for details, but I see joy turn into sorrow, see abject grief turn into steely resolve. Suddenly, his face is replaced by another, a real man, who ages from baby to senility in an instant. The unman appears again for the briefest moment, like a single frame inserted in a movie reel, before another baby takes his place. The cycle continues, a parade of lives interspersed with that one, sad, unchanging countenance.

And then I wake. Gasping, panicked, it takes my mind a little while to adjust, to relearn this body, to reconcile the old with the older. I am in something more than a bed, and sitting near my feet is another unman. He smiles at me, and I feel my heart slow, my mind calm.

“Welcome back. How do you feel?”

It isn’t English, it is a language I learned long before the idea of English existed. I cannot respond at first – awareness brings new sorrow, new joy. When I can, I tell him. Honesty is of the utmost importance.

“Sad, that they grieve. Happy, that someday they will wake.”

I glance around the room, picturing the profusion of waking rooms surrounding me, and behind, the great mass where the bodies of the dreamers lie dormant.

“Let me see it.”

He smiles again. Everyone asks. He waves a hand, and the wall before me clears.

I cannot help but cry at the beauty of Earth laid out before me, just six inches of transparent wall and half a million miles of empty space away. So small, so perfect. I glance up, wondering where Jack’s body lays sleeping, waiting for his return. I will probably never see him again – he was healthy, he will not wake until I am again gone.

“Are we close?” I ask the unman.

“Yes, and no.” He gestures toward the window. “The model is near the point where we broke. Nothing past that has meaning, so we will end in a few generations regardless. But the answer still eludes us.”

He leans close, full of quiet, desperate hope. “Do you have the answer?”

I think back on my life, on everything I learned, everyone I knew. It seemed then so full of worry, now it seems so full of hope. I shake my head.

“No. I will return and try again.”

He nods sadly as I rise, walk to the window on the world. I look at my reflection. So tall, so thin, so old, I barely recognize it.

“We will start the formal debrief soon. I will find you a new host. Any requests?”

I glance at my reflection again.

“Yes. I would like to be a woman again. I need that perspective some more, I think.”

“Just that? There are two and a half million returns a week now, requesting female is trivial.”

“It is enough. “

I glance at the window, at the Great Experiment. We lost something. We must get it back.


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