Aurora by Guillaume Antignac

Never, in my life, had I seen such beauty. Such pure ironic beauty.

At around 2000 miles per hour, our little vessel, K2002 475, carries NASA’s finest crew to a destination of almost certain peril. We all knew what where getting ourselves into when we signed up for tryouts. But in a strange way, it was all less surreal after take off. After all the training, it felt in a way good to be gone. Us, the “Braveheart’s” of the United States of America, where sent on what was meant to be the most historically successful space mission of mankind. I remember the times, when we could barely even fly to the moon. And yet still, I am here, when I could be seated at home, by my little daughter. Aurora. That’s her name. Aurora. What a bundle of joy, always looking out for mischief, and yet never causing any havok. It’s strange, how I still feel connected with her, although I am hundreds and hundreds of miles away of her. I feel like I am here, because of her, almost as if I’m trying to prove myself to her, a five year old, who can barely read and write. Yet I still feel like I am on this Mission for only one reason. Aurora.

It’s been a week now, since our departure from Earth. This morning, the sun passed us, at a far distance of course, but still closer than any human being had ever been. She’s beautiful. She displays a light, like no other, red on the outside, but golden from the inside. In fact, she lit up the entire ship for a couple of minutes. I can just imagine our tiny ship, gently hurrying past this magnificently huge mass. The mouse in the Lion’s den, quickly trying to get past, but at the same time, marvelling at the beast. For just a short second, I forgot my destiny, or where I was heading. I was in complete harmony. I felt like in the sun, I could see her, Aurora, shining in the early morning just like she shines every morning along our road. She’s wearing her blue and yellow dress, and she’s prancing along the sidewalk, humming to herself. I call out for her, and she turns her head smiling and her little soft cheeks turn all red , just like the sun. Exactly like the sun. After I lost sight of her, I turned back to my desk and continued with my work. We’re close. Unbelievably close. Must be a matter of days now before we reach it.

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THE HYPOCRISY OF MODERN ART by Laurence Russell

Narratives have been recycled for thousands of years of human civilisation. The same process of necessity of meaning, and cannibalism of past concepts runs through the lifeblood of storytelling. The department is a natural evolution, and logical extension of this process. The worlds demand stories, they do not care what the stories are, what is provided will be processed, rewritten, edited, translated, marketed, and distributed electronically. They need only be written. Fraud does not exist inside the walls of the Story Department. Every story has already been written to begin their journey.

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SELF KNOWLEDGE by Aaron Cass

The light doesn’t go out of people’s eyes when they die- it happens long before... a slow flickering ... I have seen this for myself ... in him ... and now in me... when I can bear to look in a mirror... And I find now – as its getting darker ... the thing that comes to mind most – unbelievably - The big bang – the thing he loved so much, Frank that is... The thing whose light still burnt in his enquiring eyes.. on the very rare occasion... Everything since a let down ... a limp.. damp something or other. ... he taught me this at least, taught me ? by accident -by mentioning- because it was the only thing he really loved – that was obvious – more than me – if he loved me at all – (only ever said it once)...he hinted and I realised for myself , lets say , yes – that’s it - that I come from that ... that that’s my real heritage not the mum or dad I can’t remember - .. but that awesome moment unimaginably long ago that somehow I still recall in here .. and it’s pretty bloody magnificent as heritages go..– that’s still in me – that original fire – that original bomb – still going off - and I want to know why and who and what what what what that was all about because –because , because, because, god knows how – but I was there – I mean not me not this – I know that fire and that fire is nobody’s bitch – did I say that? Nobody’s bitch - I must have heard it somewhere – Yes - Gina – that’s what she said ... Gina, my lovely neighbour, when I was trying to get her to go back to University and finish her degree – patch it up with the smiley Kamil eyes like sapphires and a total control freak, she said it – and I blushed and felt its fantastic hardness – its steeliness ... she said she was “nobody’s bitch” and it hit me right in the chest and I wanted some of that for myself ... it seemed like a sort of weapon – it made her a little scary – to be honest – but it was thrilling too – fight or flight - more fight than flight – to hell with flight - as if I might have a weapon of my own .. as if I might be like Gina –or have the potential, at least, to be nobody’s bitch.. and then she disappeared without even saying goodbye ... left me ... alone with my dying man ... and this weapon ... except Frank was already slipping away and couldn’t hear a thing – the whole world could have collapsed and he would not have felt it - and what’s the point in being nobody’s bitch if you have no-one to say that to – If you are actually alone... nobody’s anything.

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INTO A FUTURE by Ashley Gallaher - Pollard

The rest, as they say, is history. A fellow named Dirge was waiting just inside the tree line for us - Sudi nearly stabbed him in surprise - and he explained the lies we were fed were indeed just that - lies. The grand scheme of this cryo-project had been truthful - they had wanted the best and brightest to help rebuild. What they didn't tell us was that it was to be for the sake of their corporation to infiltrate the COP and take back our seats of power from the Foltash. The enhancements made to us were on, of course, by design - definitely not an accident. And all the training we did was in preparation for this mission. We had been destined for would-be assassin roles, dispensable in the end. After Sudi and I expressed our outrage and anger, Dirge took us to his underground network, where the resistance against corporations like the ones we were held in, as well as Foltash-based factions, congregated. Dirge said they called themselves The Rebirth Renegades. He introduced us to some of the others there - resistance higher ups. We were greeted by their tech, Trey; their communications officer, Ace; and their lieutenant, Val.

They gave us the option of joining them. We had the training that they needed for undercover work, and who better than us to get into where they needed to be - inside the COP. Sudi, of course, didn't hesitate to agree. It felt right to join them, but did that mean it was a good idea? I wasn't sure. The only thing I was sure of was that I was angry for being betrayed by my own people. I had lost everything only to become a pawn. I wasn't anyone anymore, except a new body to be pushed into battle in the hopes that I would make a difference.

And you know what? That was alright with me.

I signed on.

They gave us new identities, outfits, quarters, and special telecom devices for communication. Cellphones were a thing of the past: they had implants you could make direct calls to, on hidden networks or public channels. They had watches that allowed vid-calls - it was like Skype, but far superior. We had made great strides in this past millennium, and I felt the worse for missing it. My anger had suddenly appeared, and it was almost a relief to feel something other than confusion. I was tired of being told where to go with no direction or goal. Just do as you're told, and that's it. No, I didn't want to be some puppet.

I thought about my long-dead wife's words again: this is not God's plan. It surely was not. I wasn't a believer in the gods or a higher purpose. I believed in science. So when they asked me what I wanted to be called, I told them the Preacher. My real name would come later.

We would move on the Foltash, and the ones who would corrupt the human purpose of living. We would go forth to set correct what was made unbalanced a millennia ago. This wasn't God's plan. This was my plan.

Alleluya, you are dismissed, amen.

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SCI-FI by STEVEN R. TENNEY

After dinner, Otis, a middle-aged, overweight,

balding man, walked out onto the front porch, while his

wife, Gertrude, remained inside the kitchen washing the

dishes.

He lifted his binoculars to his eyes and peered

across the meadow towards his neighbor's house. He saw

that the Real Estate sign had a SOLD sticker upon it.

"Looks like the neighbor house sold."

Gertrude, shapely, if not a little on the plump

side, walked out onto the porch drying her hands on a

kitchen towel. "No, kidding! That was fast."

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REVENGE SERVED COLD by Joseph Dibari

The Jar Of Tears

There was a knock on the front door. The heavy, empty sound that she feared would be there someday. She put on her bathrobe and scurried down the stairs.

“Mrs. Mc Clarin?” The uniformed officer asked as she peered through the peephole.

“Yes, I’m Laura Mc Clarin.”

“I’m Captain Jack Marlboro, your husband worked for me.” He had a chest full of medals.

“Worked?” All those nightmares came true. The horrible dreams of her loving husband murdered in the line of duty. She judiciously opened the door.

“I’m sorry Laura, I have some bad news. Your husband has been shot. If you can get dressed I’ll take you over to Saint Luke’s Hospital where Frank is in critical condition.”

Laura quickly slipped into her gray slacks and tattered green sweater. She only thought of comfort as fashion was on the back burner. Captain Marlboro closed the door behind her and scooted around to the driver’s side of the unmarked cruiser.

“We got the guy down at the stationhouse.” The captain said as cool as ice cream.

“What guy?”

“The guy that attacked your husband Laura. We’re questioning him right now.” He had a sneer on his mug that told Laura it wasn’t just words that were being pelted upon the attacker.

“Tell me exactly what happened, Captain.”

“Well, as far as I know, Frank was coming to the aide of an old man in a liquor store down in Surrey. The man had called because some young guns were trashing the place, like something out of ‘A Clockwork Orange’. One of the guys shot Frank in the stomach. Back up arrived immediately and captured all three of the little bastards.”

They pulled into the hospital portico and Laura jumped out before the car came to a halt. She went straight to the information desk

“My name is Mc Clarin. Where is my husband?”

The matronly lady behind the counter looked at her computer screen. She made that face. You know, the one you make when you don’t know what to say. Laura knew from that feeble expression, Frank was gone. Before the lady could say a word Laura was gone. She went into the lounge off the emergency room and sat on the cold, red pleather couch. Jack Marlboro found her.

“I’m so sorry Laura. We’re gonna make that motherfucker pay for this.”

“Will that bring Frank back?”

“No, but it will give you satisfaction.”

“The only satisfaction I could get is to see my husband again. Revenge will do nothing.”

“It will make the boys feel better.”

“I don’t give a fuck about the boys. Where were the boys when Frank needed them?’

“It happened so fast. There wasn’t any chance for anyone to get there in time.”

“Maybe if one of your boys was his partner like the old days. You assholes and your budget cuts.”

“You’re preachin’ to the choir Laura. You want a coffee?”

“Yes, black, one sugar.” Just as soon as Marlboro left Laura went back to the front desk.

“I want to see my husband, now.”

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THE PRETENDER by Shel De Rond

"We are over-reliant on organisms whose populations decline. Soon there won’t be enough left to sustain life. You call for a miracle, but we don’t need that. We need to evolve. Imagine a society where we rely only on ourselves. This time is approaching. My people, we are becoming post-human.

"Welcome to our next step in evolution."

I heard those words spoken by my professor – a man I had thought sensible. Then his lecture was watched all over the globe, rapidly turning from a crazy man's theory, to popular opinion, to the Truth: a joke I was left out of. My professor turned from teacher to Prophet. And those of us who heard it first were bestowed the honour of being his Disciples. We were to spread the word... and then enforce it.

I can do that, but I cannot believe it: I am a Pretender, hiding in the shadow of Truth.

Evolution is a staircase. Each step moves upwards. But what happens when we reach the top – the cliff edge?

What happens when we fall?

My life revolves around a game: two truths and a lie.

The lie: I am a complacent citizen awaiting eagerly our post-humanity.

The truth: we have already left humanity behind.

The second truth: I am the leader of a secret organisation aiming to overthrow the Prophet and his post-human society.

If I hadn't told you which the lie was, would you have known? They are all true in some way, but only one is my truth. This is the one I hide:

Our organisation was born from those deaf to the Prophet’s silver tongue. We do not honey-coat our words, nor delude ourselves with illusions of angelic purpose. Instead we fight to save the taste of truth, however faint on our tongues.

We fight to end the reign of the Prophet, for he has forgotten what prophets stand for. They speak for the people, not command them.

And if my deceit makes me a traitor, so be it. But I am no Judas. I fight for a cause greater than he once did.

I am the serpent whose shadow haunts the Garden of Eden. I am the harbinger of truth. And so it is that I ask: why was the snake kicked out of heaven?

The Bible claims the snake deceived, that it shared the truth with those forbidden from hearing it.

But what it is that this God wants to hide?

I don’t claim to be a prophet myself. Yet Prophets and traitors are treated the same in the end…

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ISOLATION by Lyndsey Croal

Unicorns. Fairies. Superheroes. Every night Ailsa wished that those were the worlds she would venture into. Instead, her usual night consisted of running from faceless monsters, falling into dark abysses, getting lost in endless mazes, struggling in the swirling waters of a vicious ocean, or trying to escape from the grasps of a bully appearing in a surprise curtain call to the past. These were the images she had to endure. Every night.

There was no running away.

That was the job of a Dreamcatcher after all.

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