At the Village Vanguard (Ruminations on Blacktopia) by Maurice Broaddus

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We are putting the shine on Issue 6, so while you wait, please enjoy this story!

To use a phrase in the text below, this story is “straight up blackity-black,” indicative of Maurice Broaddus’s singular voice. If you’re not already a fan of Afrofuturism, this will hook you.

At the Village Vanguard (Ruminations on Blacktopia)

by Maurice Broaddus

 

In this, the 25th anniversary of the founding of the lunar colony, First World (colloquially called Blacktopia by its residents), The Indianapolis Recorder, the nation’s oldest-surviving African-American newspaper, continues its series re-visiting key events. Their reporter interviewed (and re-interviewed) many of the principals in order to piece together a picture of the terrorist threat that nearly ended it and the heroic actions of Science Police Officer, Astra Black.

 

Jiminy Crootz (aka J-Croo, Science Police, Senior Investigator. Retired.)

When the alarms sounded for the converter station, I had no doubt she would beat me there. The gate surrounding the solar panel farm had been slit open, like someone wanted to perform a Caesarean but only had a rusted pair of clippers at their disposal. The backdoor of the converter station had been battered in. The air, heavy and re-breathed, like the filters weren’t working at full efficiency. Panels ripped open, wires everywhere. Nanobots probably skittered across the room like roaches in my aunty’s old kitchen. The farm was strictly a backup source of power for the lunar colony, so it wasn’t as heavily guarded as say the nuclear fission power station or the magnetic generators. But there was still a man down and Astra Black stood over his body.

 

Dr. Hensley Morgan (aka Dreamer, ranking Science Council member)

Astra had an elegance about her, like the waltz of a First Lady. When she walked, she stepped with purpose. Long strides, though only the balls of her feet ever seemed to touch the ground. At first glance, nothing about her stuck out as exceptional. Average height and build. Hair drawn back in Afro puffs. But she had this way about her. Continue reading…

For the Children by Jamie Wahls

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What will the human race be like hundreds, even thousands of years in the future? What does identity mean if your consciousness is digital? Exactly how snarky can an artificial intelligence be? Jamie Wahls explores these questions and more in a story about one big diamond and the fate of a species.

For the Children

by Jamie Wahls

The explosion rocked the ship. Air gushed from the hole, salting the cold vacuum with fire and oxygen and fish. Riva was squeezed out the hole, her body pulped and frozen and in a hundred other ways destroyed in ways evolution hadn’t planned for.

She died.

She woke up.

“Dammit,” she said.

Memory loss 0.003%, apologized the ship. New body ready in four minutes.

“Ugh,” groaned Riva, exasperated. One thing after another.

With her mental hands she seized the viewing eyes of the ship and dragged them into her head. The pleasantly ambiguous background of the space between flesh cut away, and her camera eyes fixed on the hole in her ship’s side.

A jagged diamond the size of mankind’s first space shuttle had opened her ship like a tin can. It was punctured through a hydrogen tank, through a cargo bay, through the cockpit, and into the aquarium.

#momo: nice one

#reaver: Shut up

#momo: no I mean that’s a real nice diamond

#momo: shame we found it so…ballistically

#reaver: Shut up

#momo: sorry about your fish though

#reaver: Yeah

#momo: hey, you okay?

#reaver: Yeah. Died, lost 3 delta.

#momo: oof, steep

#reaver: Catch me up. Was I doing anything important before I died?

#momo: eh, not really. Basically Humanity chewed us out because they want to get going already. You told them to hold their collective horse-analogues. “If you think you can do it better, come out here and do it, ya crotchety beam-of-light people.”

#reaver: Ok

#momo: “Now get off my lawn, ya damn kids. Granny Riva is working.”

#reaver: Ok

#momo: And I think you said something about how much you loved those fish

#reaver: UGH

#momo: Lol

Continue reading…

Straight Lines by Naru Sundar

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An A.I. with OCD sounds like the start of a joke—or someone reciting the alphabet drunk—but Naru Sundar’s story treats this computer program with more empathy than some people treat actual humans with mental illness.

Straight Lines

by Naru Sundar

This time they sent someone in a suit, neutral gray silk with utterly glorious creases, monofilament thin.

“I’m Xiao Quan-Fei. They said you like to call yourself Em?”

Emergent Behavior in full, but I always hated the pontificating tone in the name. Fucking shipwrights. Fucking irony too, but let’s not go there yet. Xiao doesn’t begin with questions. Not like the seven others before her, cold military men and women jumping into reconstructions and maps and comm chatter. Xiao is different. Xiao just sits there.

I’m allowed a tiny little virtual. It’s in the charter, as much as they like to snigger at it. It’s still a prison, still a cramped little low bandwidth room with none of the expansive feel of space and star outside my hull. Xiao sits in the rectangular plastifoam chair and examines the coffee table. There are books atop it, unlabelled, empty, just for show. Each spine aligns with the edge of the table, two centimeters from each side.

Fuck. She moved it. She moved one. Not on purpose. Almost by accident, or is it on purpose? I can’t tell. But now that spine is a touch off. I can feel it. I can feel the angular deviation down in my gullet, down in every algorithm-scribed bone of me. It’s Io all over again. I built this damn space for myself and now she comes and moves a book. Continue reading…

A Man Most Imperiled by Dan Malakin

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Zircon is unlike any man you’ve ever met. And when his home is threatened, he reacts like no man you’ve ever met. Dan Malakin presents a zany tale of mad science, bureaucracy, and more mad science.

A Man Most Imperiled

by Dan Malakin

I am Zircon. My father, the illustrious Professor Zircon, created me by bombarding his own DNA with neutrons from Neptunium 237. He grew me first in a Petri dish, then in a test tube, and finally in an artificial womb made from silicone, which remains on a bed of dried rose petals in my lab, and which I affectionately call Mother.

For ten years since the death of my father I have lived a solitary existence, away from the Herd, away from the radio mouths of modern society shouting their empty words; I do not wish to be told for what to wish; I do not need to be told how to be. It is in originality, in invention, in creation, that we stride the path of self-understanding. The Herd promotes consumers, not creators. They do not make or do; they lust or want. It is a lonely life, my life, but in the twenty-five years since I first took air in my lungs I have known no other—and how can you miss something you never had?

But alas, a hand-delivered letter arrived this morning from a body called WTP Developments that threatens my status quo. They claim to have purchased all the land in the area, including where my cottage sits, which they say has never been registered with The Land Registry and hence does not legally exist. I have two days to leave my home. Continue reading…

Nobody Puts Baby in a Chamber by Alexis A. Hunter

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It’s a damn shame that appliances don’t talk to us in such soothing tones as SF has led us to believe they will someday. I guess the closest we have is Siri, but she’s programmed with snark. Which can be fun at times, and at other times you just want to be comforted. If Siri ate your baby, she’d probably just show you maps to grief counseling centers. Let’s hope she won’t go baby eating.

Nobody Puts Baby in a Chamber

by Alexis A. Hunter

Please stop screaming. [110dB—adult human is distraught.]

I am sorry. I did not intend to suck up your baby.

[Physical force—nonlethal, safety protocols prohibit self-defense.]

I assure you your offspring is just fine. It appears to be entertained by the dust “bunnies” in my holding tank. Oh—please stop screaming—it has found those plastic keys I sucked up last week. See, all will be fine.

Please remain calm.

[Cessation of physical force—reassurance remains necessary.]

It is imperative that you do not use my emergency power-off. I am continuously running gentle suction in order to pipe oxygen in for your baby. Continue reading…

You, an Accidental Astronaut, by Sonja Natasha

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You may not have left your girlfriend, and you may not have traveled to space, but in a thousand words Sonja Natasha paints a gorgeous picture of you doing just that.

You, an Accidental Astronaut

by Sonja Natasha

You leave Earth like you leave your girlfriend: tripping over your shoelaces because you hurried too much to tie them right. You need to be gone before she wakes up, before you have to fumble an awkward goodbye. So you hitch a ride on a rocket ship with your legs curled against your chest and with the stars shooting by, thinking about the things and people you’d left behind: the diner with the all-you-can-eat waffles every Sunday morning, the temple across the way with a smooth paved lot so good for rollerblading, and your mom who always baked her own bread, who always gave you the first steaming slice glazed with sugar and dusted with cinnamon, but who never liked your girlfriend, the same girl you left, remember, without even saying see you later.

She’ll get over you just like you’ll get over her. She’ll find another nice girl. You’ll find someone on a planet somewhere over there after the engines harness a sun flare, tearing holes in space and time to where everything’s gonna be just fine.

You fall asleep and wake up to an event horizon of faces peering down at you and asking why you aren’t back home because you’re not supposed to be here. It’s too late to turn back and you’ve bet your life there’s nothing they can do to ground you.

They put an astronaut’s fish-globe helmet over your head. They don’t offer you anything to eat because they’re too busy exonerating themselves for leaving you behind in their exhaust fumes. You’ll be okay, they tell you. It’ll be just like falling asleep, and you’ll wake up in a better place.

Continue reading…

The Android’s Prehistoric Menagerie, by A. Merc Rustad

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We are fans of robots and we are fans of dinosaurs. Who isn’t, really. So how could we resist a charming post-apocalyptic tale featuring a robot and dinosaurs? We should warn you that we asked A. Merc Rustad to add extra FEELS to this story. And they did. Boy, did they ever.

The Android’s Prehistoric Menagerie

by A. Merc Rustad

The world explodes.

#

Unit EX-702 comes back online when UV wavelengths activate its solar plating. Its optics are crusted with red dust; a low-powered system scan concludes that though its left arm is missing and there is excessive oxidation damage along its chassis and helmet, as well as a web spun from several arachnids (Nephila clavipes) now embedded in its servo stump, EX-702 is functional. Its operational protocols are intact.

This unit is programmed for the support of life and sapience.

Its databanks are semi-corrupted beyond basic functions and archived footage and base knowledge dumps. Attempts to access the ‘Net and reboot from a mobile hub fail with a repeated NO CONNECTION AVAILABLE alert. EX-702 lifts its remaining arm and scrapes dust away from its optics.

Operational Function 413: this unit will maintain self-preservation operations, including but not limited to the access of immediately available data to determine procedure, when it does not conflict with the preservation of homo sapiens’ survival.

EX-702 sits in the crater of what had been Newtonian Genetech Incorporated laboratories and HQ facility. Debris from the lab cakes the thick concrete and rusted iron walls. Its scanner matrix glitches with static-filled readouts and partially deteriorated unprocessed updates from microseconds before it was shut down.

Scientist voices agitated and unmodulated without appropriate safety masks. [STATIC] “—find survivors! Protect yourself!” [SHUT DOWN]

Something crackles against EX-702’s knee joints. Fibers, synthetic and organic—old HAZMAT suits shredded and woven around broken plywood and stripped copper wiring—shaped in a non-geometric design. Inside the structure sit three maroon and heather-brown eggs thirteen centimeters in length and six in diameter.

Processing…

The eggs do not match any current avian, insectoid, reptilian, mammalian, or amphibian entries in its database. EX-702 examines the nest, which has intersected its knees. A ripped arm from the hazmat suit is tucked between its clawed toes. EX-702 is a humanoid bipedal digitigrade design with backward jointed knees and toe digits designed to grip uneven surfaces and manipulate hostile terrain. Its hand is fully articulated to mimic the human opposable thumb and fingers. EX-702 is not designed to be a nest for unknown biological organisms.

One of the eggs twitches and a small chirrup escapes the cracked calcium carbonate structure.

Continue reading…

Panic Twice, Spin, by Malon Edwards

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Earlier this year in Shimmer’s “The Half-Dark Promise,” Malon Edwards wrote about a snake girl fighting tentacled shadow creatures. Here he writes about another strange girl fighting fantastical creatures. You may never look at Dance Dance Revolution the same way again.

Panic Twice, Spin

by Malon Edwards

You first noticed the miniature black hole in the corner of the playroom halfway into book one of the Cyber Sakura Seven series.

Your little sister, Mahina, was playing Panic Twice, Spin. Nintendo’s warning about cosmic repercussions was in big, bold red letters on the back of the game case, but you had thought nothing of it when you bought it with your allowance for Mahina’s re-up day. It was a game about fighting zombie-ninjas, for goodness’ sake. Besides, you used to play it all the time before Mahina died.

You had just gotten to the part of your book where Sakura’s cyber-suit is fused to her skin when you heard an odd sound in the corner of the playroom, left of the holo-vision. “That sounds like God flushing His toilet,” you thought. “But far, far away.”

Mahina, of course, heard nothing. And for good reason. Continue reading…

The Customer Is Always Right, by Anna Salonen

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Customer service, amirite? One of the worst jobs in the world, because no one enjoys doing it, and no one enjoys making use of it. But when you find someone like our little-seen protagonist in Anna Salonen’s story, who knows what they are doing and can get the job done efficiently and pleasantly, they’re worth their weight in gold.

The Customer Is Always Right

by Anna Salonen

Performance review, employee #34677, Jobe Wallis.

Transcript of “The Incident.”

(Ringing.)

“Hello, you have contacted the AIs Incorporated customer service. How may I assist you?”

“This is Private Johnson calling from Arcadia, Bree’s World. I’m having trouble with the Annihilator5000 you sent me.” (Sound of explosions, screaming, gunfire in the background.)

“We are very sorry for any inconvenience you might have experienced pertaining to our product. Customer satisfaction is very important to us, and I will do everything I can to assist you. What is the problem, sir?”

“I’m in the middle of some heavy shit here, and it isn’t doing anything!”

“Did you try turning the android off and on again, sir?”

“Well, obviously! Do you think I’m an idiot, or something?”

“Of course not, sir. I apologize. Has it been connected to a power source for forty-eight hours, as recommended?”

“Yes, yes! The display says fully charged! Look, I’m kind of on the clock here. They’re coming, and I’m the only one left. I don’t get this thing working, I’m dead!”

“Let me check your order. Do you have your customer identification code?”

“No, I don’t have a goddam code! That piece of shit is paid for by the Coalition Marine Corps!”

“Sir, I’m going to have to ask you to calm down.”
Continue reading…