I am very excited to share the cover of our new anthology.
This has turned out pretty darn well.
Thank you to Jeff Minkevics for the wonderful cover.
The Alarm Sounded
By: Guy David
It didn’t sound right. Sam brushed his long hair with his hands and adjusted his Lennon style glasses. He knew The Galactic Union relied on the sounds he could create, but it just didn’t sound right. It had to make a statement, give people a specific message. Someone hearing the sound had to instantly know it’s time for action. Someone hearing the sound had to know he will have to put down what he’s doing and get moving. Sam sighed. It was one thing to get hired for creating action adventure sound effects for virtual worlds, but that was different.
When the man from The Union approached him a week ago, he thought he was pulling his leg. Sam was just an average guy from the industry, one small fish in a huge pond, which was full of people with strange job titles such as “virtual lighting expert” and “cinematographic camera movement planner”. His expertise on the Machinima scene was in the field of getting the right sound at the right place. He was no one special. He was surprised The Union actually heard about him.
The Union was founded in 2025 as a result of the rising fear in the public about the possibility of hostile alien encounter. The Human race has just settled a first colony on Mars and it was already looking beyond his own solar system. Now, five years later, they where still working on ways of recognizing those alien threats and setting up an inter-planetary alarm system that could warn them of an approaching alien threat. Sam was put in charge of the actual sound of the alarm, and he was not sure why. The pay was good though, so he wasn’t complaining.
They already rejected three of his suggestions, so he had to be extra careful about how he approached this. He didn’t want to lose the contract and the prestige that came with it. After he finishes this, his name would be known in the industry and he would be able to get any job he wanted. He gobbled another piece of pizza and got to work, mixing the sound of a wolf from the archive with that of a wounded hound, then speeding them up a little, just for the effect. He was just playing around for now, between trying this and that, but something in that sound got to him. There was something there, something desperate, crying out. It was something he could work with. He got to work, using various filters to change the sound without destroying the feel. When he finished with it, the origin of the sound was not recognizable anymore, but the feel was there. He knew that was it. He picked out the phone and called the man from The Union.
23 years passed, and much have changed. It was 2053 now and Sam was very different. Everyone was different. The human race had enhanced itself and changed, became much more intelligent and faster thinking. They have developed an interstellar means of traveling and started venturing into the stars. Science had advanced and the speed of light was no longer seen as the limit of space travel, so it became a viable possibility. As Sam traveled with the new expedition, his thoughts wondered, and he was lost in them for a while, but then he was startled by a familiar sound. He didn’t recognize it at first, then he realized what it was. It was the sound of a wolf and a wounded hound, mixed together and masked by some filters. A chill went down his spine as he realized what the sound meant.
The Alarm Sounded
By: Robert Jahns
Paul awoke, sat up and then slowly started his daily routine. He swept the night from his eyes and glanced at the alarm clock. Six o’clock on the dot – time to begin the day.
Gail had the pancakes on the griddle. “Good morning, Paul,” she said. “The paper hasn’t come yet. Maybe you can relax a bit this morning.”
“No time for relaxing today. The guys have to get the trucks loaded and on the road by ten,” mumbled Paul. “If they don’t get their loads to the mill before noon, they will be waiting in line for hours to unload.” Mary plopped a half dozen flapjacks on his plate. “Where’s my sausage?”
Gail smiled and reached for her coffee. “You know what the doctor said, Paul. He wants to keep you on your diet. I do, too. We need you around here,” she said. All Paul could do was grumble and put the “fake butter” on his breakfast.
There was cold in the air, a sign that winter was on the way. Paul liked winter. Half of his drivers headed to the Florida sunshine. He got to do what he liked best, driving his trucks. He didn’t drive too far. Mostly, he rearranged the trucks in the yard as he plowed snow and tinkered in the shop with the behemoth diesel trucks. That’s how he started here, working for old Charlie Davis. When Charlie retired, Paul put everything he had in hock to buy this outfit. He hadn’t missed a day’s work in nearly thirty years. Finally, he had paid off all the debt and he no longer was beholding to any bank.
By 9:30, his drivers were on the road carrying their “40 bushels” (40 ton) of logs to the paper mill. They would return by dark when more men would appear to drive into the hills to pick up yet another load for tomorrow’s delivery. This was the same routine that old Charlie had developed and had worked well for nearly fifty years now.
“Get that old Cat Diesel into the shop,” Paul asked his mechanic, Greg. “I want to go over that one and see if I can find why the power is down. It’s not ready for a rebuild yet.”
The last thing Paul heard was, “Look out! The door is coming down!”
He felt the strong blow to his shoulders before things went black. Then the alarm sounded.
Paul awoke, sat up and then slowly started his daily routine. He swept the night from his eyes and glanced at the alarm clock. Six o’clock on the dot – time to begin the day. If he didn’t show up on time, that old Charlie Davis was sure to dock his wages.
By Chris Hite
Chris didn’t get his text to me so you will have to listen to hear his story.
By: Jeff Hite
The cold was intense and made him wince at every move. Alex tried to move, but the pain in his joints was nearly enough to make him blackout but, he knew that if he did not move soon that he would freeze to death. He opened his eyes but there was little difference. The flight deck was black, and the little star light that filtered in through the two small view ports was feeble at best. When they had lost power to the rest of the ship two days ago, they had been forced to feel their way through the ship. After he had put his sister in a stasis tube he had sealed off all but the bridge and pumped what was left of the air up here.
Alex pushed himself up from the seat and nearly blacked out from the effort. He steadied himself on the back of the command chair until the room stopped spinning.
“Oxygen level, 20%.” The computers emergency alarms rang out.
“I know, I know.” He waited until his head cleared and then spoke again, “Computer, how long did the burn last?”
“Emergency engine burn lasted approximately 45 seconds.”
“Calculate time to Mars.”
“Mars is not along current trajectory.”
“Calculate time to nearest human outpost,” There was no response for several seconds.
“There are no current human settlements along current trajectory.”
“Damn.” Alex felt sleep beginning to overwhelm him, but he wanted to know if there was a chance. “Calculate time to nearest trade route.”
“Three years 25 days.”
“How long can the power cells run two stasis tubes and the distress beacon?”
“Three years six months.” He sagged against the seat. Just long enough he thought.
“Which trade route?”
“That is only run about twice a year.” He needed to think but his mind would not function clearly. After some difficulty, “Is there enough fuel in the thrusters to stop the ship?”
“Not at current velocity”
“If we used the thrusters to attempt to stop the ship how fast would it be going when the fuel runs out?”
“Eight meters per second.”
He let out a long breath. Too fast. At that rate they could be thirty or forty thousand kilometers away from the trade route when a ship passed by. Way too far for their feeble distress signal. “Are there any ships in the area?” He knew the answer. He had already asked it at least a hundred times.”
“There are five ships within two days travel at current velocity.”
“One Mars battle cruiser , and four Mars attack class vessels.” The ships that had attacked them. No chance of getting help from them. He had waited this long to attempt the burn, while their fuel leaked into space, and their chances dwindled, so that the attack group would not see them.
“expand search to oxygen limit.”
“Search is already three hours beyond the oxygen limit at current consumption averages.” He didn’t respond. There was no point. He had done all the searches before. Alex slowly went over the whole thing in his head again. The Mars battle group were the only ships even close. Those bastards had made sure of that. After the convoy had been attacked they had run. Run as far as they could, trying to get away from anyone. They had needed time to regroup. He had thought that it would be best.
The Mars battle group had followed them, just outside of the Pegasus’ sensor range, it was the second wave of the Mars group that had attacked them and destroyed the rest of the convoy. The Mars group had learned their lesson the first time, they waited until the Pegasus was so far out that there would be no one to come to their aid, and then mercilessly ripped her to shreds. The attackers disabled the main engines before he had even known they were there. Then with high powered lasers they had cut holes in all the major sections of the ship, letting her bleed to death.
Only three of them had survived the first wave of the attack. Most of the rest of the crew was either killed by massive decompression or blown out into space as the air rushed out the gaping holes cut into the ship’s skin. Only the engineer, Alex and Angel had survived.
The three of them had waited for hours, with only leaky emergency patches in place. Then, when they thought the battle group would have thought the ship devoid of life, Alex and the Engineer suited up and prepared to put more permanent patches on the ship and see what damage had been done to the engines.
The Captain of the battleship was cruel. The laser had cut the engineer in half with no warning, after they had gotten patches on only three spots on the ship. Then he nicked Alex’s suit.
“Now you will slowly run out of air like your ship and sister are doing right now, boy.” he had said over the suit’s communications link. “That will teach you damn rovers that no one ever gets the best of a Mars battle group.”
Alex had barely made it back to the airlock when the rip in the suit opened up exposing his whole left side to the cold of space, and he had completely blacked out by the time Angel had dragged him back into the ship.
He and Angel had waited three more days before they made another move. Before the engineer had been killed, he and Alex had managed to get patches on the holes in the engineering section and the bridge. Angel and Alex inspected the engines and the fuel status. The engines themselves were a total loss. The only thing left were the emergency burn cones, but the lines from the fuel tanks to them had been severed, and all but one of the fuel tanks were now empty, and it was leaking badly.
After compressing two of the living sections there was only enough air left in the ship for another two weeks. There were three working emergency stasis tubes and one working escape pod. They had agreed to wait until the ships had gone for at least the balance of a week before they attempted a burn, because one of them would have to go outside and repair the fuel lines. But on the fifth day, the patch in engineering blew out and they lost main power and most of the breathable air.
Now they had no choice. Angel would go into a stasis tube as soon as Alex was able to repair the lines to the burn cones. They had fired the retro rockets ever so slightly to slow the spin of the ship to give him more time when he would not be exposed to the mars ships while he worked, but it meant that he also had to waste more time waiting for the ship to turn back around so he could continue work. Then once the balance of a week had gone by he would fire the engines in an emergency burn and climb into a status tube himself after turning on the emergency beacon.
It was a long shot they knew, but it was better than both of them freezing to death or suffocating.
There was nothing more he could do. The Ship was moving now and if he wanted to live, the stasis tube was the only way. He looked for a moment at the one holding his sister. Her naked body floated in thick blue liquid, her eyes shut, there was no movement, not even the gentle rise and fall of breath. She could have been dead.
Then grudgingly, but quickly he stripped off his clothes. The cold air burned his skin, and threatened to overwhelm his already exhausted body.
“Engage stasis tube number three.” he said through teeth clattering so hard that he was not sure the computer would be able to understand him. He could barely feel the needles prick his skin as he leaned his back against the freezing cold metal and he briefly thought of the stories of children getting their tongues stuck to metal object during the winters on earth. Then he felt the liquid around his feet. It rose quickly and he felt the sudden panic of drowning just before the powerful sedatives from the needles in his arms took hold of him.
Originally Posted Nov 12 2008
This week there are four Stories
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A Minute of Failure
BY Guy David
Emma knitted the sweater silently. She always knitted when she was stressed out. It helped her calm down and think clearly, and thinking was what she did best. It was her skill, and the one she relied on. She had high hopes and thinking was the way of making them into a reality.
The problem ahead was not an easy one, though working at home meant she had an army of like-minded thinkers at her finger tips. All she had to do was to go on-line and ask someone, but she was a stubborn one. She had to solve her own problems herself. It was the only way she would be able to quit her day job, by doing all of this by herself. This has made her a lone wolf, and she liked it that way, no one to distract her from her goals. She fixed up the glasses on her nose bridge, a sub-conscious gesture done absent mindedly, then she put down her knitting and headed for her computer.
The HTML danced in front of her eyes, refusing to untangle. Bits of CSS and PHP where flawlessly intertwined within. Other bits where connected from the outside. It was obviously a work of art, neatly knitted pieces of code, some functioning on a local level, some more universal in nature and some surviving into other pages. It was a work Emma was especially proud of, yet again, that particular web page had failed to load for a minute every time. It was exactly a minute, no more and no less. It was as punctuate as the coffee she took every day at 7 AM, and the bus she took for work at 8 AM. She knew her day job was a necessary condition on the way for something better, and she knew that something better was right in front of her, if only she could find the cause for that failure.
She looked at her half knitted sweater. A small ant was crawling on it. She looked at the ant, then she looked at her code. Suddenly she could see it. It was like an ant crawling inside her code, contaminating it and keeping it from functioning properly. She could see it clearly now, and she could see the solution. She shook the ant out of her knitting and set to work on the code. She fixed a bit here, which made another flaw apparent, so she fixed that too. It was a little like lying. You told a lie here, so you had to support it with another lie there, only coding was more finite. It was contained in a much smaller world, so it was manageable. Finally, the page was fixed and worked flawlessly. Another level in her goal was achieved. Quitting her day job was one step nearer. She smiled at her little victory and went back to her knitting. She had allot more to think about.
A MOMENT OF DISTRACTION
A moment of distraction, a minute of failure to pay attention? and now, of all the ridiculous places, I find myself in fancy dress, in the park, in front of our friends?
How did this happen? I am a nice well adjusted person, I vacation in Baja, or Aspen or the Adirondacks as I see fit. I live in a nice one bedroom apartment in a tony neighborhood. I don’t drive by choice, finding it too complicated to keep a car in the city. How did I find myself a candidate for a minivan?
I thought I knew you. It started benignly enough, a cup of coffee, then an art opening; there were a few things in common, and it grew. You learned about the past relationships, the baggage in tow; I met your kids. It didn’t seem like too much to deal with. A weekend to the coast seems reasonable, and you got me that really nice birthday gift; we were still in the realm of having a good time.
A few years pass, things are comfortable; I know what to expect: Alternate weekends and holidays. Plenty of time to do your own thing, my own thing, you have a change of clothes in the closet in case you spend the night. I have a toothbrush at your house. This groove feels right; I’ve even go to the school plays and last month helped pick out the new puppy.
You bring a small box to dinner, filled with sparkle, shattering the dream. It wasn’t supposed to go this far? I was only looking for something to occupy my time after work. You’re a nice person, and I go along with it, not ready for the tears, yours or mine, that will happen when I break up with you.
You dirty dog! You tricked me! You made me pick a date, and promised it would be a small ceremony, not a big deal, nothing would change. Liar. But you ARE an affable liar, and I think I can forgive you. The more I consider it, makes me realize it is more fun to cook dinner together, and discuss bad art films. My heart must have been paying more attention than my mind. But I still want to go to Baja without the kids in tow.
A Minute for Victory, A Minute for Failure
-by Robert Jahns
What are the costs of victory? What are the costs of defeat? Kings and presidents, despots and dictators, kind leaders (even cruel leaders) struggle with these decisions. When a leader commits to war, monetary costs can be calculated. Ships, arms, supplies; all can be assigned a value. The unanswered question is how do you value human life? Is that even possible?
A leader that decides to go to war makes the valuation that the lives of his soldiers are worth the price of victory. Those leaders sit in buildings of the state, well insulated from the dangers his citizens will face. They steal away the time to make these deep decisions. They pray that they possess the wisdom to make the correct judgment.
Generals command their troops to battle. Away from the front lines, they feel the weight of sacrifice much closer than the leader. Generals are insulated from the immediate smells of gun powder and death. His decisions may be based on moving small pieces on a map of a battle ground. He may have precious little time to contemplate his strategy.
Manning the front lines is an amazing experience. Young leaders, younger soldiers, are all wide eyed and a bit frightened. They huddle in wait to repel the next attack or for the orders to charge forward. It is action and reaction, a “hurry up and wait” time. Fear is good. It keeps soldiers alert.
A strange thing happens when there remains no reasonable chance for survival. Fear wanes, a calmness and purpose rise to the forefront of the mind. Soldiers perform their tasks to the limits of their ability. Soldiers follow orders. Some will die trying to achieve victory. Alas, they may have but a single moment to contemplate success or failure.
There is a minute for victory and a minute for failure.
A Minute of Failure
By Jeffrey Hite
Time travel is supposed to be for one of two things. First you could go back in time and fix something so that it would turn out better. You could go back and ask that pretty girl out with more confidence. You could make sure that your dog does not get hit by that car, that your parents don’t get divorced, or your sister does not get that really bad dye job right before her big date. Or you can go into the future to learn something of what will come, the out come of sporting event, the names of all your children, who will be your best friend in twenty years time, or even so that you could steel something from the future, pretend to invent it and make millions. Either way it is about gaming the system. Either, fixing your mistakes or fixing it so that you don’t make the mistakes in the first place.
The problem is that there are a number of way that this can back fire on you. Look at all the time travel stories, you have that guy that wanted to get back to 1985, first of all why would you want to go back then, but second he tried to win a sports, and what happened the bad guy got the book, and almost erased his whole family. Or what about the little kid, he wanted to go back and figure out who his mom was so that she would not give him up for adoption, when he had a very bright future ahead of him, that would have screwed everything up. And what about those guys that tried to go back and get the whales? They nearly got caught because one guy didn’t know how to use a computer and another one couldn’t find the navy ships.
The point is that it takes very little to screw up the whole time line and then there is often so much damage that you can end everything, and I do mean everything. And if you don’t think that anything like this can happen to you, I am here to tell you that it can.
Forty years ago I invented a time machine. No I am not crazy, I really invented a time machine, and it worked too. Now I can see by the look on your face that you don’t believe me but just listen while I tell you what happened, and I will tell you about my minute of failure that almost ended the whole world.
When I was a young man I wanted to know what the future would hold. I wanted to know if we would make it to the other planets, and the stars beyond. I wanted to know if, there were computers smart enough to take over the world. I wanted to know what my dog was saying to me when it barked from across the yard. So I started researching ways of finding out. I read all of Einstein’s papers and moved on to anyone else that talked about relativity. My first road block of course were the enormous speeds that one must travel to gain any noticeable effects. Then comes the great amounts of power that are required to reach those speeds. Then once you have gone forward how do you go back. Science says that if you travel fast enough that you will move forward in time much faster than everyone else, basically skipping the years in the middle. But although you can see into the past by gazing and distant objects, there is no really practical way of getting there, or at least there wasn’t, but I found a way.
Now I am not going to tell you how I over came these problems. If I told you that you might very well make the same mistakes and end up wasting your life the way I have fixing the problems you inadvertently created, and then what would be the point of telling you this in the first place. I had invented a time machine and I went into the future. There I found more amazing things than I ever dreamed possible. But I also found things that disturbed me beyond my ability to handle them. It was one of these things that almost caused the down fall of man, and maybe the entire universe.
In the future you see they were working side by side with computers that could at one time be an incredible aid to them, and yet enslave them to work for hours on end, they had become so ingrained in their lives that, people not only worked with them, but also lived with them. They were everywhere, in their homes their modes of transportation, in small devices that they carried with them to communicate, and even listen to sounds that they would pump directly into their ears.
When I saw how the computers had enslaved the young and old people alike, I knew that I had to do something about this. I had to go back in time and stop this advancement, and prevent them from taking over. I had to stop them and I will I have tried many times and failed everyone. Every time I think that I have manged to stop the growth of this It always turns out worse and I have to go back and fix the problems that I have created.
“Ah there you are mister Mathers. You know you are not supposed to leave the compound. I am sorry is has been bothering you folks.”