Category: Fiction

Good to Go

After spending nearly 30 years managing the construction of the world’s first space elevator, I was determined to participate in the inaugural ascent from the floating platform off Kourou. Still in my prime thanks to anti-ageing treatments, I felt as strong and healthy as any astronaut, even though my presence on the crew was mostly for show. The risks were low, so my AI advisor informed me. Spun from carbon nanotubes and reeled downwards from a small asteroid captured by Planetary Resources Inc. in the late 2030s, nothing could disrupt that ribbon; nothing physical, at any rate.

As I took my place in the up-capsule, I mulled over the many false starts I’d witnessed. There would be no more pull-back to low Earth orbit; no more ‘we can’t afford to do it’; no more reality TV show nonsense. As New Year 2076 dawned, the long-postponed Big Push into the Solar System could finally begin.

We were good to go.

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Venom Honey

Melita was just finishing her last cup of tea for the day when she heard the unexpected footsteps outside.

She paused, cup suspended halfway to her lips. It was too late in the day for representatives from the chemical plant, and anyway she hadn’t gotten any signs of an impending visit…She stood up as the footsteps grew louder, crunching over the gravel path and then up the porch steps.

There was a loud rapping from the knocker. ‘Mother?’ came a muffled voice outside. ‘Are you in?’

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Florian woke up a year older, his screenplay still unwritten. For a while, he lay in bed, confused, assuming he must be mistaken. There was word in his head, which he must have dreamt; ‘vixerunt’. He had no idea what it might mean.

He slid from under the duvet and walked slowly to the bathroom, inspecting his face in the mirror. He saw no obvious difference but still knew it. He hadn’t realised that people were always aware of their age at some unconscious level, however much they tried to deny it, and they always knew when it had changed.

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The ‘What-The…!’ Tree

I lurch upwards, fighting to gulp air, my body trying to remember how. A pressure on my chest prevents me from flying off.

‘Breathe,’ a distant voice commands, and I do.

A warm flannel is passed roughly over my preservative-numbed and gunk-covered face as the tank drains around me, the vacuum pumps gurgling as the last of the fluid is sucked away. If anything, the air feels even colder than the liquid.

Slowly, painfully, I crack open my eyes, light flaring across them.

The room is quiet, the bays to either side empty, as unlike the organised chaos of our departure as anything can be. Am I the last to be awakened or the first?

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The Age of Exploration

Reality was a blur.

As it was every morning.

Tsukiko woke. 98 years young. The eldest member of the geriatric crew.

Her enhanced retinas spun to work, and reality focused. The augments’ efforts seemed to cause a whir in Tsukiko’s skull. She knew the sound was a figment of her imagination, a phantom of her own making. A persistent one, though.
The antimatter grav-engine in her quarters switched into day-mode and, slowly, Tsukiko felt the weight descend on her joints. Others preferred weightlessness in their personal chambers, but the light pressure made her feel oddly comforted, as if she were being embraced by embodied memories of Earth’s unrelenting tug. Besides, it numbed the unavoidable aches that came with an ancient body. Even an augmented one.

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‘Maybe you want to put that weapon down, son.’

I never figured out how Moore could sound so calm with the barrel of a gun pointed at him. The two strangers standing on the edge of our lands were haggard, thin, and twitchy—the worst kind of travelers on Nuaga. Moore looked like royalty compared to them, in their threadbare clothes. But the way he squared his shoulders, the way his low baritone issued smoothly through the dry air—that was the real source of his authority, which set him apart from the wanderers and from me.

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