A series of un-related microfiction.
“The steel beast stalked the abandoned streets of the Old Barrows, its malfunctioning telemetry beacons echoing from crumbling structure to structure. Fresh silicon, its only ravenous desire, rogue drone signals its singular focus,” he said, leaning into the lone glow of the data cube.
“Oh my gosh! What happens next?!” a tiny synthetic voice exclaimed, her excitement muffled by an equally tiny articulated alloy hand.
The savanna vegetation rippled in the warm eastern winds, dancing in the valley under the morning sun, warm and inviting. Neither awake, nor asleep. Not inert, but not alive.
“No,” she said. “The pond. The reflection. Something is wrong, prepare to abort surface operations.”
Patiently, it sat. Still hungry.
The city sat in silence, hidden and entombed by the crumbling society that once walked its streets. The faint cry of a lone beacon surged through the aether, unanswered and unheard, the hum of its power core dimming with each revolution.
The ground shook with a low rumble as the debris cloud rolled through the towers of the flight deck. Distant screams drowned in the deafening crackle of the creature’s electric breath.
Amalga-X had awakened. The evacuation was too late.
The island sat in the center of a sea of sulfur, a vast, barren rock, cresting the waves, the putrid smell of decay permeating the heavy air. Rusted piles of crumpled automatons littered the horizon, punctuating the charred remains of the ancient city’s structure.
“We found it, “ she noted into the journal unit. “Looking for the source now.”
Spores danced in the cold cavern air, sparkling in the moon light, humming softly as they fell, like a delicate whisper in the dark. The xenospeleologists tapped nervously on the imaging readout unit mounted on his exo-suit.
“XSP WARNING: Resonant Mapping Interference Detected,” the unit barked.
He peered from behind the monolithic sandstone pillars, past the blinding, golden dunes, to the ceremonial grid. He squinted, barely able to make out the shimmering humanoid form emerging from the cloud of light.
“We have another entry, “ a voice crackled through the atmospheric static. “Prepare to engage on my mark.”
The replication algorithm of the gravity-well bifurcation protection system failed, sending ultra high frequency scan-lines tearing through the test pylon. “Damn, “ blurted Dr. Lett, “I thought for sure this would be our ticket home!”
We always thought the invasion would be a sentient, malevolent force that sought to eradicate us. We never considered that we would be inconsequential, irrelevant to the spores in the gray, deuterium heavy cloud through which our orbit delicately danced.
The light from the orbital sensor array flickered across his face as he reached for the ship-wide broadcast button. “Soil and water data are now within tolerance. Surface Cultivation Team, you are clear for Phase 2 activity.”
Nanites seeped out of the engineering suit’s structural cracks, crushed into an oily film by the pressure of the artificial gravity generator. “One more quarter turn,” she thought, as the automated spanner torqued the last bolt on the repair overlay.
Birds fluttered above the dome’s radiation field, climbing and diving, wings stretched, catching the exhaust gusts from the atrium turbine.
Her malaise and depression seeped into her dreams, past the neural filters, through the static spanner, under the critical eye of the Stasis AI dream monitor, and into the delicately simulated cortex, a signal unbalanced by the swift repetition of charges.
The waves of the digital ocean crashed into the matrix boundary, hissing like a radio tuned to the cosmic microwave background. The visual protocol of the ICE spewed binary chatter into the abyss, as the hacker peered into gaping hole in the system meta-structure.
“It’s hard to breath this far under,” they thought, queuing the exfil payload.
Homesick for a planet that died a millennia ago, COLONY-1 hurtles through the interstellar medium. Half-dead consoles line the bridge, status lights flashing intermittently. “Status: ,” the read-out beams, “Stasis within tolerance. Human intervention not required. Reactor core operating at 90%”
The synthetic cluster ached with a deep, gluttonous hunger as it Quantum Siphoned the remnants of the ancient material information that lined the event horizon of the AGN black hole. The Prediction Engine churned through model after model, searching for the Simulation Aleph.
Janice and Millie sat across from each other, the awkward silence broken by the gentle whirring of the automated meal preparation armature, the static-like cold of stasis still tingling on their skin.
“You’ve been awakened for your 10 year anniversary! Please enjoy this 24hrs on behalf of Crew Rotation 710. Let’s do it again tomorrow!” the place card holotext read.
“SEC-Interlude crew please report for stasis prep in bay twelve,” a warm but automated voice barked through the station-wide comms, interrupting the promenade’s overhead music.
“Time’s up,” she muttered, throwing back the remainder of her synthetic mojito and spending one last moment admiring the vibrant colors crackling through the electrical storm just outside the exterior port view window. The burn of synthetic alcohol tugged at the back of her throat. Her next view would be generations later, she thought, and just as far away.
Ash fell from the sky like a heavy snow and methane winds whipped through the barren crag under the muddy night sky of Eurynome V. The ground shook as the Pneuma reactors erupted deep within the dormant core.
“BOOM! BOOM! BOOM!” The core knocked, as if to awaken the Sleeping Giant’s magnetosphere from an eon of slumber.
The cool grass crinkled under his bare feet, tiny blades tickling through his toes. Class 7 crew were only allowed on the grounds of the agriculture dome on special occasions, though this hardly felt like one. Four birthdays and one wedding on the plush, green turf since coming out of cryo, but this was different and the grass seemed dry. Water restriction? Off-season fertilizer?
Salm was dead and all he could think about was the grass.
The colossal communication antenna pierced the sky, a skeletal steel hand reaching desperately through the clouds of Axion IV, tearing past the autonomous guy wire drones that whir back and fort, pulling it into alignment.
Even our tech knows that our home is dying.
“…and the solar winds forever at your back,” the text above the bulkhead door read though the translation lens overlay. The astroarchaeologists will have a field day with this, the salvage tech mused, logging another High Value Salvage structure. His second interstellar colony vessel this cycle.
Where are they all coming from, though?
The lower maintenance corridor seemed to stretch for miles, a dark, flickering walk of extrude-honed segments of rubber, plastic, and steel. The track lighting sat low to the floor, a dimming pulse of red, glinting off of the mesh catwalk flexing beneath his feet. The intercom crackled overhead, scratching unintelligibly to life.
“Just one more junction,” he shouted as he gathered his canvas duffel closer to him, narrowly squeezing through the maze of hanging wires and debris, “then we’ll be ready to re-initialize the logistics core.” The crackle of the com unit cut in and out, cutting him off.
“The what?” The familiar disembodied voice of the friendly, yet obnoxious ship AI chirped over the coms static.
“THE LOGISTICS CORE,” he repeated forcefully, trying to cut through the noise. He stood for a moment, inspecting the damaged com unit bolted to the wall, and muttering to himself, lamenting yet another thing he’ll have to fix before going back into stasis.
Claudia picked up the privacy cube and stood with it in her hands for a moment. The biometric reader cycled to green, emitting a soft click from the bottom of the cube. “Heavier than I expected,” she thought aloud, breaking the silence of the chaplain quarters. “So many beautiful ideas and so much love for the world. Now he’s just a plastic sack of ash and nanites.”
She sat at the P.I. desk, her hair hurried, extravagant evening gown wrinkled, back to the door, sobbing quietly. Something tragic had happened. Decaying blood on her collar with a brooch boasting her family crest; She moved a body.
“Mr. Wilcox,” she greeted me. “I need to hire you to help find my husband.” Easy money.
She jolted awake, a century away from everyone she loved, shivering in the post-stasis nanite bath. The sting of a million microscopic robots repairing her damaged epidermis washed through her neural processor. “Was this real,” she thought, “or just another false system boot?”
She jolted awake, a century away…
The chill of the Myamoto Stasis Bay on Deck 5, seeps into your bones as actuators vent SRD processing gas into the cabin, an echo of a suppressed memory, leaking through your faulty neural processor. Is this a blessing? Or a curse? No one has these memories any more; They’re just too painful.
“The trouble with BrainBurn is that everything looks like the dead of space,” Clara said, consumed by her infinite malaise.
“But Clara, everything looks like the heavens, now. Maybe now, you just finally get to see it.”
“Screw you,” Clara replied. “That’s just stupid.” Clara had enough of Alpha-9’s crap.
“Welcome back to Haumea Transit Station,” the digital voice pierced through the stasis-induced tinnitus. “Your travel from Warp Gate 7 has concluded with no errors. Risa Leisure Sim 817 has completed. You are free to walk around the station to get your bearing.” Clara touched her feet to the Stasis Bay floor, a shock of cold shooting through her nervous system, a reminder of how deep her stasis had been. “Login. HaumeaNet.,” Clara stumbled to remember the protocol. “Authorization: 479, Voice Print.”
Is the floor this cold, Clara mused, or am I?
Lois walked through the picturesque glade under the warm sun, with her arms stretched out behind her, the tips of the giant tulips tickling her open palms. “This beautiful place isn’t Zeta Prime,” she thought. “I must still be in stasis. It won’t be long, now.”
The colony wreckage spun chaotically through the debris cloud, its burning jump core crashing behind, debris cutting and scraping its exposed collision control matrix. Warning lights blinked frantically on the consoles strewn about the empty bridge.