Author : Chris Faulkner
The generals stood in their finest uniforms looking at the war raging on the planet below. Despite being so far above the planet, an occasional bright flash could be seen. A large display showed troop movements and readouts along with live streaming battle footage. The next few hours would decide everything.
They dined on every delicacy and finery that was available as they watched in anticipation. It was a game of inches one side would give the other would gain over and over again; each side losing troops in the process. The footage showing the silent screams of the fallen the tide of battle as it ebbed and flowed.
After dinner each man lit a cigar and sipped brandy while they waited. The casualty numbers hadn’t stopped increasing for at least two weeks; they were nearly identical. The streaming footage showed artillery strikes decimating units, bombing runs taking out production facilities, missile strikes, small arms fire, hand to hand combat. It was night on the planet down below, not that in mattered the sky was so thick with smoke and haze from the fighting that the sun was permanently blocked.
Hours passed and still no clear winner. Perhaps the war would linger on another day, perhaps two, but certainly no more than that. They waited and waited and the hours dragged on. Locked in a stalemate, each side as resolute as the other, it seemed this whole ordeal would never end. And then finally as the wee hours of the morning crept into day their answer had come.
“Well it seems you’ve lost, old boy,” one general said as he extended his hand to the other. “It would seem my droids are quicker on the draw.”
“A mere three to zero hardly seems a cause to celebrate, Bartholomew,” the other man replied, smiling and taking the first mans hand.
“Until the next war I suppose. Perhaps then we can send the droids to that planetoid on the outer reaches. I’m curious to see the low gravity affects the outcome.”
At this a steward entered with a bottle of champagne.
“I’ll be waiting. Shall I see you at the negotiations later?”
“Of course,” he responded, toasting with Bartholomew.
Author : Patricia Stewart, Staff Writer
The prosecutor stood up and addressed the Judge. “Your Honor, now that the Mr. Barr has been found guilty of murdering Kurt Atwater, the prosecution wishes to announce its intention to seek the imposition of the death penalty, as mandated by global law.”
“Objection,” shouted the Barr’s attorney. “Global law clearly stipulates that a minimum of three murder victims are required in order to invoke capital punishment. My client has only been convicted of one.”
The Judge turned toward the prosecutor and said, “That is the law, Counselor. So, unless you have evidence that the defendant killed two more people, I have no choice but to sentence Mr. Barr to twenty five years to life.”
“Actually, Your Honor, I do,” the prosecutor replied as he held up an evidence chip. “I’d like to enter into the record a sworn affidavit from the Director of Temporal Management from Future Timelines, Inc. Attachment A to the affidavit is Temporal Report Number 2162.326.56-MJ documenting Kurt Atwater’s presumed future. It attests that had Mr. Atwater not been murdered, he would have had three children; Cory, Robin, and Alexander. They would eventually have given Mr. Atwater seven grandchildren, and eighteen great grandchildren. I could go on, Your Honor, but clearly, as a consequence of this one murder, more than twenty eight additional individuals have been deprived of their rightful life. I submit that, in essence, they were also murdered by the defendant.”
The defendant’s attorney jumped to his feet in protest. “This is ridiculous. My client cannot be held accountably for the hypothetical deaths in some imaginary future.”
The prosecutor quickly countered, “Your Honor, there is prior precedent. In the case of Cassomandi v Gressett, testimony by Future Timelines established that Gressett’s failure to attend mass on June 9, 2165 set up a chain of events that precipitated the Great Massachusetts Fire of ‘66. The evidence was admitted by the presiding Judge, and the verdict was upheld by Higher Courts.”
“Your Honor,” pleaded the defense attorney, “That was a civil case; it has no bearing in a criminal proceeding.”
The Judge pounded his gavel and ordered both attorneys to prepare briefs for his consideration. Over the next several months, the briefs were reviewed, evidentiary hearings were convened, testimony was presented, rulings were made, and the defendant was sentenced to death. Over the next several years, the sentence was appealed, and upheld, all the way to the World Ultimate Court.
On the scheduled date of the execution, the prosecutor sat among the twenty witnesses as Barr was lead into the disintegration chamber. As the seconds ticked away, the executioner covered his right ear with the palm of his hand, indicating that his telecommunications implant was receiving an incoming call. The executioner nodded his head several times. He lowered his hand and ordered the guards to escort the prisoner back to his cell. Irate at the turn of events, the prosecutor pushed his way toward the executioner. “What happened? Why is this murderer not being executed?”
The executioner motioned the prosecutor toward a quiet corner of the room. “A reprieve from the Governor. Barr’s sentence was reduced to twenty five years to life. Apparently, his attorney had Future Timelines determine what would have happened if you didn’t use the victim’s unborn children at the sentencing hearing. As it turned out, Barr would have been released after serving thirty years. He eventually married, and had two children. The Governor refused to allow the unborn children to be deprived of their rightful life by executing their father.”
Author : Duncan Shields, Staff Writer
The old man was a genius but kept it to himself. He lived in an old house outside of the city. He didn’t have friends. He kept himself busy with hobbies. His latest project had been a frustrating one.
The problem was material. By his calculations, he would have needed a dish over six miles in diameter. Tin or lead-lined steel would have been best.
He didn’t have the money to afford that much metal, let alone get a grant from city council to build something so huge that close to the city. He was stuck.
Until he thought smaller instead of bigger. He bought an old television picture tube and a faulty electron microscope from the university that they were going to throw out anyway. He bought thirty magnets from the hardware store, salted them, and aligned them all in a very unique and specific way on a chunk of stolen chain-link fence. By pulsing the electrons from the busted television through those magnets with the electron microscope turned on to observe them to make them collapse, he created a tachyon spray gun.
With it, he could mark a radius of five miles around his house with an invisible web of time-retarding, mostly-stable tachyon nets with its focus ending in the middle of his basement.
Totally harmless to the normal population.
To time travelers, it might as well have been a brick wall.
The first traveler arrived five minutes after the old man turned the time-net on.
There was a flash and there he was. Dressed in blue and with goggles. He had a bright orange plastic fin on the top of his head. He was wearing black rubber gloves and his chest had a tangle of monitors on it. His whole setup looked pretty homemade. He had what looked like a motorcycle throttle in his left hand and some sort of blender in the other.
“Sweet! It worked! Where am I?” he asked. Looking at the old man and then at his surroundings with a wide, goofy smile on his face.
“1958.” the old man lied.
“What? That doesn’t make any sense.” He looked down at one of his dials.
The old man raised his gun and shot the traveler through his left eye.
The old man turned off the time-net. He took off the traveler’s clothes and looked at the equipment strapped to his body. There had to be about six patents in the chest equipment alone. And judging by the traveler’s inexperience and naiveté, he probably wasn’t even that advanced.
The old man would rob more travelers and steal their technology. He’d leak the patents out on the market. He’d be rich.
Seeing as no temporal police had showed up at his house yet, the old man figured that he had already gotten away with the crime.
The old man smiled in the darkness of his basement.
Author : Steve Smith, Staff Writer
Arway sat down gently at the desk. Dust was already starting to gather, defying the environment scrubber’s valiant attempts to keep the air spotless.
Two weeks, maybe three.
Careful not to disturb anything, he leaned as close as he dared to the desk’s surface and breathed in slowly, deeply. Hundreds of particles raced through his sinus, and he unconsciously rubbed his tongue against the roof of his mouth as they were identified, cross referenced and catalogued.
Without realizing, he’d closed his eyes as he took in the recent history of the space. He opened them quickly, hoping no one had noticed. Turning slowly, first left, then right, the entire gestalt of the working space was absorbed. Conventional writing instruments, ink dried on their rollerball tips. A collection of sticky notes, brief and cryptic impressions left behind from notes long taken and discarded. A transceiver for the holodeck pickup that he’d stepped over at the door. The contents of the machine it had last interfaced with was already downloaded, its information being indexed against the new data as Arway absorbed it. As he worked, patterns flared up in his line of sight, connections drawn in faint light-lines between objects in the real space around him; hyperlinked notes, tags associating items with each other and her file. There was a nearly infinite number of rabbit holes, each ranked as to their relevance by the intensity of their colour signature.
Arway stood up, and stepped back into the middle of the room.
Two uniformed officers and a plain clothes detective stood by the door, murmuring to each other in hushed tones. Their conversations were also logged, but their words were just so much static to Arway. He was used to their discomfort and resentment.
When he spoke, the three other men stopped talking and listened.
“She was here. She disconnected from virtual sixteen days ago, but stayed here for two days unplugged before leaving. There’s no evidence of electronic funds transfer anywhere near her.”
While he spoke, he stood staring blankly at the desk, not looking at the men behind him.
“She was living off soup and bread, but not it eating here. Probably visiting a food line nearby. She was bringing coffee back, dark roast – mostly Sumatra. That’s not food line coffee, she had to be buying that though there’s no evidence of hard currency. No paper dust, no ink scent, no trace. Whatever she’s spending she’s keeping it vacuum sealed for safety. We won’t be able to trace where her money’s coming from until she slips.” She wasn’t going to slip.
He flexed his shoulders underneath the heavy trenchcoat before continuing. The cramping muscles would soon bring on a headache if he didn’t work them out.
“She was alone. Her clothes are not laundered. No soap, lots of body residue. Dermis samples are present but no hair. She’s either shaving outside or inhibiting. Wherever she is, if she’s not laying down, she’s not leaving much of a footprint. While she was online she logged on average eighteen and one half hours of activity per day. Targets encrypted, currently decoding, information to follow.”
The detective interrupted from the doorway. “Targets? Multiple?”
Arway turned to look at him, the milky sheen of his implants catching the detective off guard as he tried to keep eye contact, forcing him to look away.
It was one of the uniforms that broke the silence that followed.
“Looks like your partner’s gone right off the reservation, eh Arway?”
The comment he filed away with the static, too immersed in the data of her presence to care what they thought.
They expected him to hunt her. He just wanted to understand.
Author : Roi R. Czechvala, Featured Writer
“Goddamn it, this is the seventh time this week that this goddamn machine has stolen money from me,” Joe screamed, feebly punching the mechanical purveyor of carbonated beverages, “the goddamn thing has more of my money than I do.”
“Then stop putting your money in it. Now come on, we’ve got to go, she‘s coming back tomorrow, so we only have a little time. We have to get to the lab,” Jess scolded. They made their way down a long corridor and across the cavernous testing area to the lab proper, a corner of a warehouse walled off on two sides with green parachute material.
Pushing aside the flimsy material, Joe entered on the silent wheels of his chair, his partner and fiancé Jessica marching swiftly behind. The rest of Dr. Stewart’s grad students were already there, and jumped up as they entered.
“Good, everybody’s here. What was the doc thinking, leaving us in charge while she is away at the symposium. Well, when the cats away…” Steve Bloch remarked as he reached out to wring Joe’s hand. “Ready for a joy ride buddy?” They shared a wolfish grin.
“Alright people, let’s fire him up.” Christopher and Christine (Chris and Chris) Carlysle, fraternal twins, formerly identical twins, raced to a pair of terminals while Jess smeared saline paste over Joes skin.
“Ladies and gentlemen, children of all ages,” Steve bellowed in his best ring master voice. “Allow me to present Skeletor,” with a grand flourish, he pulled a canvass from the large cloaked object dominating the small lab.
“I don’t believe it,” Jessica exclaimed. “When did you manage to finish it?”
“Joe and I spent the better part of last week on it since she’s been gone. Joe worked on biofeedback loops, and I finished this end up about an hour ago. What do you think?”
All stared in hushed silence. “It’s …beautiful.” The Chris’s whispered in unison.
Before them, in gleaming black stood Skeletor; a bio-mechanical hydraulic exo-skeleton. At nine feet tall and four wide, the skeleton was composed primarily of nano plastic woven of industrial diamond dust. A recently formulated ultra strong material commonly employed as ballistic armour and heat shielding for ship to shore spacecraft.
“Okay Joe, ready to try it on?”
“You don’t know how ready,” he said, slamming his fists down on his useless legs.
It took all four of the students to get Joe into the skeleton, the process made more difficult by the slick but necessary saline gel that covered Joe’s body. It was used to facilitate the neural mechanical interface.
A strap bristling with wires was secured to his forehead, and similar attachments were tightened around his arms and legs as he slipped his hands into thick gloves. All of these devices were lined with metal contacts similar to dull needle points to receive his mental input.
“Joe, how does it feel?” Jess asked
“The contacts are annoying but not unbearable.” He took a few tentative steps. “Balance is good, gyros are working.” He crouched down, and leapt five feet into the air. The others cheered. “Well, so far so good, let’s try a little test of strength.”
Joe raised his mechanical arms above his head, and shook them at the ceiling. “Vengeance is mine,” he screamed and sprinted to the heavy warehouse doors. He easily ripped them off their hinges and tossed them aside. He stooped below the lintel, and disappeared down the hall, howling obscenities all the way.
The remaining four stood in shocked silence.
Steve, still stunned, turned to Jessica, “What is it?”
“He’s going after the Coke machine.”