The Biggest Political Achievement

by John M. Carlson

January, 2032

“This week marks both an end and a beginning,” President Connors said. He paused, and smiled to himself. This was a nice touch in his speech. He could imagine the great presidents saying something like this. Not that he was a great president. He wasn’t, and he knew he wasn’t. But he’d made good use of his position for his personal gain, and that was all he cared about.

“This week my presidency ends,” President Connors said. “Meanwhile, the Moon Base will open. Today we live on the moon, and tomorrow we will explore planets far away!

“I am pleased to announce that President-elect Ames and Congress have asked me to continue my career in public service on the Moon Base.” Of course, they had no choice. They knew he wanted to move to the Moon Base, and they also knew he’d end their careers if they didn’t do what he wanted them to do.

Indeed, when he’d started packing for his move, the first thing he’d packed was evidence that could destroy the careers of almost every politician in DC, and even put many of them into prison. That evidence would be useful in case he needed to persuade someone on earth to do something once he was established on the Moon Base.

***

The Moon Base impressed Connors even after he’d been living there a month. It was a large and comfortable place to live. Almost like living on a cruise ship, except there was no deck. Eventually it would be self-sufficient, thanks to large greenhouses, which would be good if earth got wiped out from climate change or nuclear war.

The Moon Base was the biggest achievement of his entire political career.

He sipped a glass of champagne, and thought about a decade before. At that time, earth was becoming less and less livable, thanks to climate change. (Which he’d been partly responsible for, given the policies he’d supported during his career. But, unlike big polluting corporations, planet earth didn’t make big campaign donations.) Other problems, like the chances of a big war, were getting worse, too. It would be nice to escape earth and all of its problems.

One night, he was thinking about old science fiction movies about space travel. Inspiration hit, and he came up with the idea of building the Moon Base. It was hardly a new idea, but he thought it might be finally possible with the technology and political climate of the era. He’d get it built by the US, selling it on the grounds of “science” and “a step into space—the last unexplored frontier!” Then, after the Moon Base was built, he’d move there before earth became totally unlivable.

Connors glanced at the clock on his walnut desk. It was about time for the news. He picked up the remote, and turned the TV on.

“A major storm system is headed towards California,” the news announcer said. “It is expected to be the most devastating storm in history.”

I’m glad I retired here, and not back home in California! Connors thought, as he poured himself another glass of champagne.


John M. Carlson lives in the Seattle area. His stories have appeared in a variety of online publications. More of his work can be seen on his website: http://writerjmc.blogspot.com/

Beyond the Trees

by Benjamin Locke

‘Come on Alex, Final Departure!’ Seth’s voice came jumbled through the thicket.

‘Be right there Seth,’ returned Alex, pulling down the visor of his helmet and slamming it shut, taking a last long look at the planet he called home. The moment he and Seth had trained years for was finally upon them. The first men to step on to another planet, the new frontier of human exploration, XR019. They would be heroes here and they would be aliens there. He took a long deep breath through the assisted airway of the helmet and stepped off the platform, the adrenaline of reality finally beginning to course his veins.

‘All systems checked, ready for departure captain.’ Seth relayed followed by the scheerk of the intercom.

Captain Alex Montgomery took his seat at the head of the cockpit and fastened himself in, ‘Ready for liftoff Lieutenant.’

The men paused a moment and looked at each other, raising a fist before their faces. A symbol of solidarity, something only they understood between them. It said this is it friend. We’re in this together, let’s bring it home!

A sound like the earth itself was imploded roared through them as the rocket engines burst in to life and everything around them shook like a chandelier riding the waves of the San Andreas fault. The men finally retracted their hands and clung on for their lives as their ship propelled them toward the unknown.

The journey took only a few hours but when finally the ship hit XR019’s atmosphere, it lit up the turquoise sky in a shower of brilliant yellow. Creatures never seen before far below, looked on in awe and fear as their sky seemed to be ripped apart.

The landing was rough and when the craft eventually ground to a halt, they looked at each other with a shared expression of concern but also joy. They had made it yes but would the ship be able to carry them home or would they be trapped here until rescue could finally arrive?

The captain clawed at his harness and ripped himself free. ‘Lieutenant, see if you can get that door open, I want a full eval and status report as quick as you can.’

Seth, already free of his seat nodded to his captain and headed for the cabin door. Alex tried to contact mission control but was met only by static and clicking. No use. He tried throwing switches here and there. Lights lit up and went out, the console danced a brilliant dance but gave him nothing more.

‘Sir,’ Seth called from behind, ‘We’ve taken some damage to the rear of the ship. The hull has not been breached but comms are down.’ He took a breath and continued, ‘engines seem stable as far as I can tell but I’ll know more when we get outside.’

Alex nodded, ‘Thank you Lieutenant, let’s see if we can’t get out there then shall we?’ The men smiled slowly at each other. The joy of discovery seeming to bubble up over the fear of being stranded millions of miles from home.

They raised their fists once more in silent communication and Alex added, ‘Let’s get this mission done old friend.’ The mission being a recon. Life on earth had turned sour and the human race was looking for its new home. Their job on XR019 was basically to be Guinea Pigs. Test the atmosphere, look for signs of intelligent life however small and report home.

The airlock door between them hissed and a cloud of vapour shot around the edges. The door lifted free and the first light of XR019 hit them. Alex took a breath making sure his helmet was sealed and lead a first nervous step through the opening, his heavy boot crunching underfoot on the dense forest floor.

Outside their suits the air was close and full of moisture. The sounds of giant crickets and other alien insects rang through their helmets and for a moment it seemed like any other country walk back on Earth. Except it wasn’t. The chirping was so loud and fierce, like nothing you could hear back home and the trees, the trees where a sight to behold. Each of them taller and wider than General Sherman, the largest tree on earth. The men simply stood a while, mouths agape with awe.

‘Lieutenant, what do we know about the atmosphere?’

Seth was tapping away at small keyboard mounted to his left wrist. ‘Air seems stable, Oxygen levels high. Simulation reports a 99.19% chance of human survival.’
No sooner had he finished, Alex reached under his helmet and pulled at the release mechanism.

‘Sir, what if…’ Seth began but Alex cut him off with a raised palm.
The face of his helmet lifted free and he breathed the rich air for the first time. It was satisfying and somehow sweet. The air in the suit was good but had a tendency to dry out the throat like an over air-conditioned gift store on international drive.

Adrenaline overcame him again as his rationale realised there was a 0.81% chance he had just breathed poison but as the air rushed in and out, the pounding in his temples gave way to euphoria.

‘Come Seth, shall we embark on the greatest adventure in human history?’ Alex said, holding his hand out toward the great unknown, leading the way beyond the trees.
Then, the chirping stopped and gave way to a voice, a voice so very…Human.

‘Boys! Dinner’s ready!’

The men, no longer men but boys looked at each other frowning. Alex took off his tinfoil and cola bottle helmet and discarded it inside their scrap-wood and cardboard space craft.

’Scheerk…Lieutenant come in. Adventure awaits…after Cheeseburgers!

The boys laughed and smiled and ran through the scrub land until they found the back gate of the Captain’s house. The greatest discoveries of human history would have to wait until after dinner.


Benjamin is a fiction writer living in Yorkshire, England. He writes anything from High Fantasy to Supernatural Thrillers and is a big fan of Stephen King and Neil Gaiman. Find free stories and more on his website, benjaminlockewriter.com

The Monsters That Broke Me

by Linda M. Crate

i think i left
bits and pieces
of myself
behind
so i could restring
myself together
with new burning stars
of the galaxy,
stars that don’t know the sting
of your name or the limitations
you would put upon me;
which is for the better because my
temper is like a wild fire
burning down forests and out of control
once a grudge is felt
so consider yourself lucky
i promised myself never to become
the monsters that broke me.


Linda M. Crate’s poetry, short stories, articles, and reviews have been published in a myriad of magazines both online and in print. She has five published chapbooks A Mermaid Crashing Into Dawn (Fowlpox Press – June 2013), Less Than A Man (The Camel Saloon – January 2014), If Tomorrow Never Comes (Scars Publications, August 2016), My Wings Were Made to Fly (Flutter Press, September 2017), and splintered with terror (Scars Publications, January 2018), and one micro-chapbook Heaven Instead (Origami Poems Project, May 2018). She is also the author of the novel Phoenix Tears (Czykmate Books, June 2018).

Lost Cassandra

by Holly Hearn

Cassandra waded through her malaise to the replicator. She ordered a chai latte, refusing to admit that this would be the most interesting thing she’d experience today. And the next day, and the day after, and the day after…

Mug in her thin hands, she shuffled over to the wall to wall glass windows. Outside, a white hot, tiny star was tethered to a spiral of plasma by its own life force, circling the drain and bleeding into an unknown.

Staring stoically into the abyss, she sipped her latte. There was no soundtrack for this spectacle, save the undercurrent hum of the generators, though she’d long since gotten used to those. The power for the station came from solar panels pointed at the lone star and its parasite; eventually it would run out.

Everything ran out in the end. It had been five years since her only companion died. Suicide, blew himself out of an airlock. She tried not to blame herself, but did wonder if he’d still be here if she’d been more accommodating.

No one else would be along. The slingshot trajectory from the next nearest base passed directly through the black hole’s event horizon, making any approach impossible. It also made transmissions back home impossible. Nobody knew she was still here. Cassandra would have normally retired by now from her position as the station’s chief astrophysicist, but as it was she’d given up collecting data ages ago, and now pottered about aimlessly in a desperate attempt to drown out the ticking of her life, slipping like so many grains of sand through her grasping fingers.

Suffering the silence no longer, she put on some music to fill the air around her. It would be another day of basic maintenance on the life support systems, followed by existential poetry. Until the music faded.

“Incoming transmission.”

“Don’t be silly,” she murmured. “Any transmission heading this way would get sucked in by that damned black hole.”

“Play incoming transmission?”

Cassandra halted, brushing a silver lock behind her ear. It was exactly this sort of interruption she’d longed for, and now feared. The moments slipped past. Her heart raced.

“Play incoming transmission?”

“…oh, fine, go ahead.”

Static filled the void she preferred to plaster with music, but eventually a voice struggled through.

“Cassandra! Cassandra…”

Her heart stopped, lodged in her throat. The voice belonged to a stranger. She’d never heard it before, but they knew her.

“Cassandra, I hope you’re listening. I’ll start with the most important part, in case I get cut off: I love you. With all my heart.”

The stranger was female. Cassandra wracked her brain, but could not think of anyone who would have such a deep connection to her. She never married, never loved anything but her work.

“I’ll never give up, I’ll never stop searching. You’re my everything.”

Cassandra felt herself relax, a tension she’d barely realized unknotting itself as she warmed to the genuine feeling in the woman’s voice. She stood frozen, drink forgotten in her trembling hands. She wouldn’t risk missing a single word, the first thing said to her in five years and the first thing ever said to her that moved her.

“I know you could be anywhere in time or space, or maybe you’re everywhere in time and space. I don’t know. But I know I still feel you beside me when I sleep at night, I know you’re somewhere waiting. I love you, and I’m coming for you, Cassandra. I’m coming.”

“End of transmission.”

Cassandra’s insides were tangled, emotions she didn’t realize she had swirling and constricting her. Above the din rose hope. Someone was looking for her. Someone who would devote their life to finding her. A shaking hand released its grip on the mug to reach up and brush away the foreign object that escaped from her eye and raced down her cheek.

“Computer,” she whispered. “where did this transmission come from?”

“Origin unknown.”

“At what point did you detect the transmission?”

“Within one astronomic unit.”

“What? There’s nothing that close by…”

Her eyes drifted to the window, watching the molten spiral spinning lethargically as it sucked the life from the nearby star. The appearance of the black hole had cut them off from any supplies or chance of returning home, but had also opened up the possibility of jumping across time and space. Several expeditions had departed for the singularity in the name of why not, she remained behind…just in case.

What if something finally escaped?

Cassandra spent the rest of the day playing the transmission over and over again. She fell in love with the voice, heart full of hope and head full of ideas about who this person could be. Each day she listened to the transmission. Each day could now be the day she was found.


Holly Hearn is a multi-genre fiction writer and budding poet. Her favourite genres are horror and sci-fi, and she enjoys writing flash fiction. She is also the founder of Itchen to Write, a group for Hampshire, UK writers. Follow her on Twitter @hearningcurve and read more of her work, including her book reviews, at ashandfeather.com

The Pilot

by Damon M. Garn

Jeryd climbed into the Captain’s seat for the first time.

“Aren’t you just the man,” Flinn said, admiring Jeryd’s newest medal. “Imperium Order of Loyalty.”

“That’s me,” confirmed Jeryd to his co-pilot. “Brave and loyal.” Loyalty came naturally to those serving the Sovereign family directly.

“Or a buttkisser,” said Flinn.

“Just start pre-flight. Her Highness will be here shortly.”

Outside Jeryd’s viewport, the shuttle’s crew chief waved for his attention and pointed toward the engines. With his right hand he flashed Jeryd the rebel signal for a meeting.

“Chief wants me outside,” he grumbled. “Keep working through the checklist.”

“Will do, boss.”

“That’s Captain to you, Flinn.”

“Will do, Captain boss.”

Jeryd laughed and left the shuttle. The two pilots weren’t friends but had already flown a few missions together. The starship had FTL engines and comfortable living spaces for the Sovereign Princess as she traveled among the planets on her father’s business.

Jeryd met the chief near the engines.

“Yes, Chief?” They kept the conversation as normal as possible, minimizing any chance they might be exposed.

“Just checking to ensure the flight is a go.”

It was natural that the chief would ask about Jeryd’s mission but his real question was whether Jeryd would complete the rebel mission to assassinate the Sovereign Princess.

“Yes,” Jeryd assured his most trusted rebel contact. “It will go as planned.”

“Good luck, my friend.” The rebellion had already provided Jeryd with a full identity change. He’d never see the Chief again.

“You too, Chief.” Jeryd leaned forward and whispered the rebel motto. “Freedom Forever.”

Jeryd had been recruited to the rebellion seven years ago as a young Imperium pilot. His skill had brought him to the High Command’s attention, just as the rebels had hoped. He now had his first command. He’d been allowed to bring his crew chief with him to manage the shuttle.

It was ironic that he’d been given the Princess’s assassination orders at the celebration for his induction to the Imperium Order of Loyalty. He cooly considered the intelligence win it would be for the Imperium for a pilot to expose a rebel assassination attempt. Jeryd could envision the accolades that would come his way.

Jeryd returned to the shuttle. He was both a trusted Imperium officer and a heretical rebel. And to think he was actually living three lives.

Flinn reported the pre-flight checklist was complete and they could depart whenever the Sovereign Princess arrived just as two Imperium Guards moved up the ramp and took their positions. Two more watched everyone suspiciously at the bottom of the ramp.

Minutes later, the Princess’s entourage arrived. She was talking to Consul Teland, her most trusted advisor. More guards and servants followed.

The Consul nodded to Jeryd, acknowledging the shuttle captain. The Sovereign Princess, of course, did not look at him. A mere pilot was not worth her attention.

That will soon change.

Once everyone was on board, Jeryd returned to the cockpit and strapped in.

“Did the Princess notice your shiny new medal?” asked Flinn.

“Of course not. Her Highness has other things on her mind.”

“Still, it would be nice if she’d bat her eyes at us sometimes,” Flinn muttered.

“Watch your tone, Lieutenant! She’s a member of the Sovereign family and due our respect and loyalty.”

“All right, all right. Just sayin’.”

The radio squawked. “We are ready to depart, Captain,” the Guard Commander reported.

“Acknowledged,” Jeryd replied.

Her eyes really are beautiful.

The FTL engines took them far from of the Core Planets and the Imperium Fleet. Jeryd glanced at the chronometer.

Five minutes until I change the galaxy, he thought coldly.

When his chronometer finally chirped, Jeryd moved. Pretending to stretch, he jabbed down hard into Flinn’s neck with the syringe he’d secreted in his flight suit. He gently but firmly held his hand over the co-pilot’s mouth and made himself watch Flinn as he died. Flinn’s eyes searched his, asking why, then flashing hatred as he realized Jeryd must be a rebel, then finally, fear.

Your death is worth it to me, Flinn.

Jeryd entered the commands the crew chief had loaded into the life support computer, releasing poisonous gas into the ship’s atmosphere. He disabled all lights then snapped a breather over his face.

Did it occur to the chief that sabotaging my mask would leave no witnesses to the assassination? He tried not to think about it.

After giving the gas time to work, he drew his laser and unlocked the cockpit door. The gas was already being removed by the atmospheric scrubbers. Moving into the living quarters, he began to find the bodies. Three guards were dead in the galley. The Commander’s body slumped near the door to the Sovereign Princess’s private room. The other guards and servants were sprawled over a table.

The Princess’s door snapped open, cracking the silence.

“Computer, lights,” the Princess ordered. The room’s lights illuminated the death Jeryd had indifferently wrought. She held a laser pistol in one hand and removed the breather that had protected her from the gas with the other. She looked at the dead bodies before staring hard at Jeryd for a long moment. Her eyes drifted to the medal he’d been given for his loyalty.

“Somehow, that medal doesn’t seem appropriate now,” she said ironically.

He tore the medal from his uniform and threw it down.

The Princess raised her pistol until it was level with Jeryd’s head. They never took their eyes off each other, looking across the immense chasm between Sovereign Princess and shuttle captain.

Without a word, she ruthlessly squeezed the trigger.

The blast sizzled passed Jeryd’s ear and burned a hole through Consul Teland’s forehead as he stepped behind Jeryd with a laser in his hand. She pitilessly watched his body collapse before meeting Jeryd’s eyes again.

They rushed together, kissing deeply for the first time in weeks.

“We’re finally alone,” she said pulling at him with psychotic passion.

“Yes,” he hissed, kissing her violently. “Free.”


Damon Garn lives in Colorado Springs, CO with his wife and two children. He enjoys hiking, writing and annoying his neighbors with mediocre guitar playing. He writes in the fantasy/sci-fi realm experimenting in flash fiction, short stories and a novel. Follow him on Twitter @dmgwrites or at dmgwrites.wordpress.com