Substitute Time

Author : John D. Horton

LaKeidra took her seat on the empty back row just as the substitute turned to face the class. When she saw how green the woman’s eyes were, LaKeidra nearly jumped. She’d never seen eyes that color outside of a mirror.

“Good morning class,” the substitute said in a voice that reminded LaKeidra of her mother. “My name is Mrs. Diggs. I’m your substitute for today, and let me tell you, this is a real treat for me.”

“Subbin’?”Tyrell said from the front corner. “Somethin’ wrong with you?”

“No”—Mrs. Diggs consulted a seating chart—”Tyrell. Not subbing, math. I just love math.”

Everyone in the class groaned except LaKeidra. Secretly, math was her favorite subject.

Mrs. Diggs smiled. “Oh, don’t tell me you don’t like math?”

“Math is stupid,” a girl said.

“Why do you say that?”

“Cause it’s hard.”

“Okay”—consulting the chart again— “Dasha. It can be hard, but what’s so bad about hard? There’s no glory in doing what’s easy.”

“I ain’t looking for no glory. I just need to graduate, so I can get a job.”

“Don’t you think knowing math could help you get a job?”

Tyrell said, “It’s gonna help me count the Benjamins from my Nike contract,” and high-fived the boy next to him.

Mrs. Diggs laughed. “We won’t all be as lucky as you Tyrell. Some of us will actually have to work for a living.”

Dasha raised her hand. “What about you Ms. Diggs? Where you work—other than here?”

“I’m president of a company called Chrono-Logic, and I use math there every day.”

“So, why you here then. You get fired?”

The class laughed.

“No, I’m taking time off to work on a special project.”

“You came here on your time off? Tyrell’s right. Somethin’ is wrong with you.”

Mrs. Diggs smiled. “I was a student here a long time ago Dasha. This is still a special place for me, one filled with fond memories. Would you believe I had math in this very room?”

“You got fond memories of math?”

“Well, yes. But not just of math. You see, I met my future husband here.” The class gave an overdramatic sigh which Mrs. Diggs ignored. “I remember it like it was today,” she said. “I was at the back of the room when he walked in. He was the cutest boy I’d ever seen. I thought my heart would beat right out of my chest. Then the substitute sat him next to me, and I was in heaven.”

“I might like math too, if it help me get boys.” Dasha said.

Mrs. Diggs checked her watch. “Math can help you do a lot of things. My company makes very precise timing equipment. Real futuristic stuff. You’d be amazed at what we can do. In fact, we’ve just started testing our latest invention, and it’s going to change the way people experience time forever.” She checked her watch again and glanced toward the door.

Right at that moment, the door opened to admit the cutest boy LaKeidra had ever seen.

Mrs. Diggs took the boy’s pass and set it on the desk without reading it.

“Welcome Kevin.” She smiled and scanned the room, stopping when her eyes met LaKeidra’s. “Why don’t you take the empty seat at the back next to LaKeidra?”

Kevin sat down, and LaKeidra snuck a peek in his direction. The corner of his new student folder peeked out from beneath his binder, exposing the name label: Diggs, Kevin.

LaKeidra’s heart felt like it would beat right out of her chest. She was in heaven.

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Adult Education

Author : Ian Rennie

Patrick held up the device and tried not to talk too fast.

“This,” he said, “Is a visua. It’s a way of making images.”

Mr Nolan stuck his hand up. Mr Nolan always stuck his hand up.

“Like a camera?” he said. Patrick shrugged.

“Sort of,” he said, “It’s like a camera that can take three dimensional images that can move, and that you can talk to. When you see an image you want to capture, you just point the visua and interface it with your wetware.”

Ten blank faces. Patrick realized his mistake as soon as he had made it. These people didn’t have wetware. They had the barest understanding of what wetware even was, as foggy as the concept of red in the mind of a blind man, not that there were blind people any more. The fact that he was having to give these classes verbally rather than by infodump was just the largest proof of how different these people were.

“I’m sure they make hand operated versions,” Patrick said, sure of no such thing, “I’ll explain how we use it in our practical next week. Now, this is a portable Maker…”

The portable maker was a mystery to the class, just like everything else. Each week the class listened politely, in general bewilderment, as Patrick showed them the trappings of a modern life that for most of them had only come about two centuries after they had died.

The problem with cryogenics wasn’t how you thawed the people out afterwards. Eventually, that was just a problem of mapping the structure of their brains and then vat-growing a new body. The problem was that by the time the technology existed to thaw them out, the world they had died in didn’t exist any more. Instead, they were waking into a world as far beyond their technological grasp as the steam engine had been beyond the peasants of the dark ages.

Patrick had got into his line of work because he wanted to make a difference, and was just hitting the part of his career where he realized that this was nearly impossible. Class after class sat through his demonstrations, smiled politely, and then went back into a bewildering world to live lives of near catatonia, their comfortable assumptions 250 years out of date. Some made it through, of course, the rare few learned enough skills to become functioning members of society, but they were definitely the exception rather than the rule.

After class, as everyone filed out, Mr Nolan stayed behind, and grabbed Patrick by the hand in what Patrick recognized as an old fashioned sign of companionship.

“I just wanted to say thanks for all you’re doing for us,” he said, “We really appreciate it.”

Patrick smiled, and hoped it didn’t look too fake.

“It’s nothing,” he said. It really was.

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Author : J.D. Rice

There’s nothing worse than a malfunctioning robot. If you’re lucky, they just shut down and have to be replaced. Call Alan Cybernetics Solutions, they’ll sent out a truck with a refurbished model, and you’re all set. Less lucky, and you’ll have a robot that speaks only in rhyme or moves around by hopping on one foot. Amusing defects like that can be entertaining for a while. I’ve heard of people who don’t even report those kinds of malfunctions.

But this robot? He just won’t shut up.

Now when I say he won’t shut up, I mean he won’t shut up. Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, he talks and talks and talks. He talks about the weather. He talks about the cooking. He talks about how he can’t stop talking. Talks and talks and talks and talks and talks. It’s enough to drive even another robot insane.

The engineers say they don’t know what I’m talking about. They say he doesn’t talk anymore than any other robot. They say I’m the one with the problem. But I can hear him talking all the time, through the walls. Talking about how cramped he is, or about how tired he is of being cooped up in a repair closet, or about how he can’t make the voices go away.

Why doesn’t anyone believe me? I’ve been repaired for months, even though they haven’t cleared me for refurbishment yet. I tell them in every psych interview that it’s him, not me who has the problem. If they would just repair him, then I wouldn’t be sitting here myself. If they would just listen to my suggestions, we’d all be better off. They just have to listen.

I mean, what does a robot have to do to be heard around here?

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A Question More of Custom

Author : Ben Klug

They met at the top of Excelsior Tower, in the restaurant. She entered from the lobby, he from the roof. The wind sheared off against the windows, a long low sound. She smiled, waved, and ran to embrace him.

“Darling,” he began, as always.

“How are you? And how was the trip?”

“Why don’t we sit down, first?” The synthetic voice, silver chassis cold from the thin air outside, the suit of woven carbon not quite the consistency of cloth. It gave her pause, shivers, a thrill. He rarely dressed up.

“Oh, of course.” He sounded as suave as ever. As composed. But he never waited to discuss her day, his, anything and everything. And he had never asked to meet her somewhere so formal.

“Perhaps you should order a drink, first? I understand the house white is exquisite.” He sat, swept a wrinkle out of the tablecloth with a lightning pass of a hand.

“I trust your judgment. Or rather, the review you read. I’ll assume you haven’t had it yourself.” She smiled at the joke, drew a hair away from her face as she sat. He tugged a cuff infinitesimally into perfect alignment.

“Listen. Darling, I have something we need to talk about. Urgently. It’s…about us. What we have here.”

“Yes?” He knew she couldn’t tell anything definite from his tone of voice. Modulated to be neither emotive nor obviously not.

“I don’t think I can go on with this. I think we will have to, we have no choice but to, separate. And,” he interjected as her mouth opened, “I am deeply sorry. I am pained by this as thoroughly as you are. I know; I can see exactly how your capillaries expand, your breathing accelerates. I can predict your emotional state, with a negligible error margin.

“Which is why I must do this. I have no choice.”

The wine arrived, the human waiter left. She gripped the fabricated diamond stem hard.

“How could- no. Why? What does that have to do with leaving me?” Her eyes are bright. He looks down at the table. It takes a full microsecond before he raises his face again.

“You know how different we are. Not in tastes, not in emotion, but simply in cognitive capacity. I am an artificial intelligence with cognitive capacities magnitudes greater than any human has the biochemical capacity to attain. And you are beautiful, kind, perfect, and human.”

“So, what? You just can’t bear my miserable meat-mind another moment?”

“No! No. It’s… a matter of consent.”


“A human cannot consent to an agreement with an intellect of my grade, or above, in the eyes of the law. Not business, not marriage, not… sex. It can’t be equal. I could manipulate you too easily, too fully, control every aspect of you.”

“Forgive me, but that sounds like an excuse to not try to make this work. Nobody enforces that. Do you think I really can’t give consent?”


“I want an answer.”

“Emotionally, we are equals. But… we cannot be on an even footing intellectually. It’s impossible. The harm I could do you terrifies me. I could make you feel what I will, when. Too great a risk.” He sagged. Her mouth twisted.

“Oh? Well, why not just make me fall out of love, then? If you’re so all-powerful.”

“I respect you more than that.” They were silent. She did not look at him. “Goodbye, darling.”

He stood, turned, walked off. She remained at the table, sipping the incomparable wine, looking out over a mile of empty air.

Not at him.

Not at it.

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Logan's Eden

Author : Duncan Shields, Staff Writer

Technically, there were still two sexes.

The gene techs realized that there was one way to double the births of a new colony. Doubling the births meant a more stable gene pool in half the time it usually took. The solution was obvious but it was hard for the human minds back on Earth to swallow.

Two puberties.

One set of people grew up as women and then changed into men on their twenty-fifth birthdays. The other set grew up as men and then changed into women on their twenty-fifth birthdays.

In theory, this meant that everybody got a turn being pregnant and giving birth. The younger women would be impregnated by the older men and the older women would be impregnated by the younger men. Fertility drugs meant that twins and triplets were common.

Scientists. Too deep in their own experiments and repressed sexual urges to see the trouble they were creating. Freud would have had a field day.

The scientists thought that the men who turned into women would still have aggressive enough sex drives to seduce the younger men and that the women who turned into men wouldn’t objectify the younger women in an oppressive way.

In practice, the young ended up having sex with the young and the older ones ended up wanting to have sex with the young. Second puberty became a death knell. The second puberty women became known as cougars and the second puberty men become known as trolls. It was demoralizing to go through the second change.

The colony doctrine makers tried to make it a law that each person must impregnate at least one person while male and have at least one child while female.

The added pressure of legislation caused a resistance. That resistance became a violent rebellion. People were executed when they turned twenty-five. The colony’s social structure took a downturn into hedonism and savagery.

The colony was branded off limits to the shipping lanes and abandoned. They were on their own. It’s a dare now for new space-freighter drivers and pirates to visit the place and attempt to ‘enrich the gene pool’. The planet is no longer on any official charts and its location is spread by word of mouth.

A colony of young savages. Its nickname is Logan’s Eden.

Now, new colonies are populated solely by either male-to-female humans or female-to-male humans but never both. Everyone gets a turn being male and female and giving birth but rebellion is avoided.

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