Gleipnok wakes to discover that sometime while sleeping she transformed into a big, hairy Earthling. Legs already hanging from the end of her once roomy sleep pod, she wriggles out and reaches with her mind for her crewmates. Thinking things like, “Ah!” and “Help!” and “I’m a big, hairy Earthling! How did that happen?”
This story deals with subjects that some readers may find upsetting.
I’m willing the old lady to take her seat already so the driver can go. Come on, come on, old girl, just pick a seat, any seat.
“Please take mine,” I say and stand. She smiles a paper-thin smile and eases herself onto the damp fabric. I hold onto a pole as the bus shudders onwards and we’re off again. I take out my phone and replay the message. “Miss Hart, Tabitha is unwell again. Please come and pick her up as soon as possible.”
The way Tabby’s teacher lingers on the word “again” sends a painful throb to my stomach.
Leila Alllison has been rooting in the basement again and this time presented us with a Sci Fi story for another moment in the spotlight. This is what she said:
Ensign Ronda-12 tapped the door to the ready room as she entered. Her long, slender legs devoured the space to Captain Blade’s desk in five strides. The captain arched his eyebrows. “Sir,” she said, “you have to exempt Lt. Hickok from the Jalatis Large landing team.” More arching. She wondered if a human’s eyebrows could ever touch their hairline. “It’s too dangerous.”
The home-med stopped giving Alice her usual meds on Tuesday, and by Friday she was feeling unlike the person she’d been, unlike anyone she’d ever met or even heard about. The feelings were waves pushing a new tide ashore, erasing and redrawing the beach of her mind with each of a thousand pulses from an ocean she’d been unaware of until sometime on Thursday. She’d lain in bed Thursday night, drifting in a sweaty tangle of cotton, dangerous and terrifying thoughts banging noisily around inside her skull; Alice couldn’t decide if she was more scared that the new thoughts and feelings would continue or that they’d stop.
In September 2212, the artificial intelligence running the Near Earth Object Observation Program at Big Pine, announced impassively that it had discovered a new asteroid that would impact the Earth in about five years’ time. It estimated its size to be similar to that of Australia. I’ve often wondered who it told first, and how they reacted.
Story removed at the request of the author.
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I realised something unusual had happened as soon as I entered the lab: dead cotton rats littered the floors of many of the cages. I hadn’t expected fatalities so early. The team had only given them the flu virus the day before and we thought it would be a few days before they developed symptoms. The powers that be had told us the virus came from South East Asia but that could mean a lot of things. It might be a natural mutation, or it might be of Chinese Government manufacture. It made little difference to us, our job was to assess it not trace it, and epidemiologists use cotton rats because they’re a good model for studying human influenza.
I wake up sprawled across the crash couch.
The taste of AmphaTab’s sticky on my tongue and last night’s detritus strewn along the cushion–liquor stains, hashish crystals, something that smells like lavender.
And a splitting headache. That damned noise again.
Once per year, Vicar meets her child at Altar. The event is a scheduled appointment, and means as much to both participants as an annual dental cleaning had meant to a First Form human being. For whatever reason, Awesome insists on yearly Vicar-class “mother-daughter” contact, which will terminate the year the color of the child’s skin changes from topaz to jet, thus signifying spiritual maturity. At that point onward, they will neither see nor think about each other again. Vicars are happily solitary beings, in keeping with Awesome’s self-image.