Galaxyrise

Tearful eyes watched as the spiral arms of the Milky Way vanished into the distance. “Oh, Liksandr!” She fell into her husband’s embrace. “Why?!”

Liksandr gazed through the transparent wall of the orb at the ethereal glow of the EM-drive. “The Tronic Progeny work in mysterious ways,” Liksandr muttered bitterly. Titan was one of the safest worlds, yet occasionally the metal-bodied Progeny swooped down from the smog-covered skies, kidnapping humans, hurtling them across the cosmos in translucent vessels for reasons unknown.

“Andromeda.” Zabesh wiped away tears. “Two million light-years in minutes.”

“And two million years back home.” Aalemi. Everyone they knew on Titan. “Dust to dust.” Those reviled descendants of the first robots, the Progeny had far surpassed their creators. Man had spread to a thousand worlds, and was on every one a slave.

“We’ll never know Aalemi’s future,” it dawned on the grieving mother. “Never see her marry. We’ll have to start anew. Just us.”

“Us and the Progeny.” Liksandr spoke the name like a curse.

As Andromeda loomed large in their vision, a projected hologram appeared.

“Aalemi?” Zabesh wept again to see her daughter.

“We beat you here by five centuries!” Aalemi smiled. “So much has changed! Oh…” Aalemi’s hologram stepped aside. A metallic spherical body entered the projection. “Mom, Dad,” she embraced the spheroid. “I’m married!”

Written for Flash! Friday vol. 3-44. The novel prompt was Pride and Prejudice, and this story… has very little to do with that prompt. But there is a mother anxious to marry off her daughters, and an overall theme of family. Image of the Andromeda galaxy is public domain from Pixabay.

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Juror 853

reminder to jurors: evidence is anonymized

My dad used to talk about the pre-revolutionary days. Jury duty meant physically sitting in court, yet cases were televised worldwide. Modern justice is more sensible: I can serve on a jury remotely, completely unbiased.

accusation: badthink

A serious accusation. Since the revolution, civil society no longer tolerates intolerance. My visor starts to display the evidence: countless pages of social media comments, credit history, etc. Elsewhere in the club, the band plays on, oblivious to my jury service.

please review evidence

Algorithms highlight the worst offenders. Phone transcripts containing racial slurs. Photos with hints of misogyny. Dirty jokes. Activities going back decades pre-revolution, no longer acceptable to society. Sickening.

please render verdict

I tap thumbs-down: thousands of others vote likewise. This John Doe’s lifetime of uncouth antics made quite a negative impression on my fellow jurors.

verdict: badthinker. mandatory sentence: termination

Somewhere in the country, the defendant stood immobile beneath the spotlight of justice, reading those words. I imagined his reaction as the executioner approached. His look of regret as the cruciform termination device, strapped to his chest, induced cardiac arrest. Then… flatline.

I’m about to return to my friends in the club when an incoming call flashes in my visor. My mother’s distraught face appears.

“Honey… it’s your father.”

Written for Flash! Friday vol. 3-32, where the prompt was to write a dystopian fiction inspired by George Orwell’s iconic novel 1984. Photo: Riot Police. CC2.0 photo by Thomas Hawk.

Farm of the Future

Written for Flash! Friday vol. 3-26. The prompt is to have a farmer protagonist, along with this CC2.0 photo by Brian (Ziggy) Liloia.

In the earliest days of humankind, primitive farming relied on good fortune and favorable weather. Families toiled in dusty fields under the harsh sun to scrape by. My colleagues and I stride proudly down the marble corridor in our white uniforms. Most of our parents were farmers. We too are farmers, of the most crucial crop.

Raising a child’s mind is too important to be left to chance. To the inexperienced parent. To the untrained teacher. Modern farming techniques produce a great leap forward in yields. The government’s best instructional technicians labor to ensure a fertile learning environment. No child left behind.

Row upon row of students float motionless in their sensory deprivation tanks, stacked floor to ceiling. Ten thousand impressionable minds, isolated from all outside influence, carefully controlled and monitored 24/7/365 for optimal educational opportunity. Never any variation. Only perfect consistency.

Today’s biology lesson: crustaceans. Holographic lobsters scuttle above the students’ faces as they look on, captivated. A nearby osmotic learning group absorbs a lesson in 20th century automotive technology. As we check the flow of nootropic drugs into their veins, I smile to see these children flourishing. Thanks to my colleagues’ dedication, this year’s crop of minds will be the best yet.

ESPeranto

Written for day 5 of the A-to-Z Challenge. E is for ESPer – an old-fashioned SF term for someone with ESP abilities. Esperanto is a constructed language spoken by upwards of two million people worldwide, and the word itself means “one who hopes”.

Katida was fiercely proud of her model airplanes, even though nobody else seemed to be. There in her little room, on the fifth floor of the greengrocer’s building on Avenuo Novjorko, she would spend her evening hours beneath the sapphire-tinged light of her desk lamp. No one else built models anymore: she fabricated the model components, paints, and adhesives in her omnifab. Then, over the course of weeks, she would liberate the pieces from their plastic sprues, adhere them with superglue, then paint them with loving precision and apply their historically accurate decals.

At night, after her parents tucked her in, Katida climbed out of bed and tiptoed over to her door. With the lights still off, she pressed her ear against the door and listened to her parents in the next room.

“It’s not normal,” her mother said. “A girl her age should be long past this obsession with building things.”

“She’s a late-bloomer,” her father said dismissively. “Once she hits her mindspurt, she will lose interest.”

“For six years you’ve been saying that, Aleĉjo! Her sixteenth is soon coming, and no sign of any ESPer abilities.”

“Now, Venka, you know that some people don’t even begin to read other people’s minds until sixteen. Why, my grandfather…”

“Do you know what the neighbors are starting to call her? Fabrikistino! Maker!”

Though Katida could not see his father’s face, she could tell from his extended silence that the nickname had offended him. Children often played with building toys and studied history while in grade school. Once they hit puberty and the mindspurt came, however, they were expected to put away such childish things. Adults didn’t need television, telephones, and other juvenile technologies: not when they possessed telepathy, telekinesis, and clairvoyant capabilities.

“Who would dare say such a thing?!” he demanded. “Who would call my little Katida a mental deficient?!”

“Honestly, Aleĉjo… I’ve asked my own relatives not to visit, lest they glimpse inside her room and see all those… models.”

Guided by the glow of the city lights coming through her window, Katida crept back to bed, then looked around. All of her models were proudly displayed, arranged chronologically around the room. There above the closed door hung the cloth-winged flyer from Kitty Hawk. On her bookshelves, from bottom to top and left to right were the warbirds of the First, Second, and Third World Wars, interspersed with the commercial aircraft of the XXth and XXIst centuries. Above her bed, suspended from the gypsum ceiling tiles, hung the hypersonic suborbitals of the late XXIst century. She never built models from any century after the XXIst: they all looked the same.

Katida pulled the covers over her head and sniffled. Her neighbors’ gossip never bothered her, but it hurt that her parents were so worried about her favorite hobby. “If only Father knew that I bear the title of Fabrikistino with pride… but no.” In her heart, Katida knew that it would kill her father to know that.

At age thirteen, she realized that she was a throwback, a mental deficient. When all her other friends went through puberty, they gained the expected mental powers. She, on the other hand, found nothing to show for it but bigger breasts and monthly cramping. So she’d self-diagnosed her condition as a preteen. Doctors called it by the unimaginative name of anesperia — lack of ESPer powers. At the time, she’d been heartbroken, then angry, but as Katida studied the history of humankind, she came to understand something.

For all of the ESPer abilities that humankind had gained, XXXIst-century humanity had suffered an odd loss. No one built anything anymore: there were no architects, no inventors, no dreamers. When ESP powers replaced technology, Katida realized, they had also replaced human drive, and ambition, and ingenuity with mere ambivalence. Humanity had stagnated.

Wiping away the tear welling up in her eye, she made a vow to herself. She would bring back that drive, and that ingenuity. What she lacked in mental magic, she would replace with sufficiently advanced technology. In the process, she would show the world that lack of ESPer ability was not a mental deficiency. “Who knows,” she told herself. “Maybe I’m the kick in the pugo that humankind needs.”

Secret Santa

Written for Flash! Friday vol. 3-2. The prompt is the photo shown, by Kevin Dooley.

Agent Freely brushed away glass fragments and retrieved the red menace. Outside the shattered window, the elderly couple and their bloodied accomplices were already being lined up to face their penalty. A crowd watched silently, mesmerized by the blue strobes and terrible weaponry of the Response Team.

“A right jolly old elf,” muttered Freely as he bagged the doll as evidence. He quickly cursed himself: speaking the words of the old poem could end his career, or worse.

Nowadays, the saint’s red suit, white beard, and blue eyes symbolized the subversives who clung to the excesses of the past, before the Disturbances. Before “holiday” became a watchword. Before the Authorities forbade open celebration. Such was the price of safety.

Yet a few remained defiant, mainly stubborn elderly and children.

Gunshots shattered the night. His stomach tightened. “Peace on Earth.” Eyes shut, he wondered how many crackdowns, arrests, and executions would be necessary to make it so.