The station wheeled through the void carelessly, metal carapace groaning and creaking against the sheer vacuum that surrounded it. The Jovian moon of Callisto swirled in the darkness below, framed by the gigantic sphere of gas and storms that was Jupiter. The rings glinted in sparkling sunlight, sunlight that had careened through space at such unimaginable speeds just to shine against all these tumbling, hurtling rocks. Even the other moons twinkled in the distance, hot white sparks against the deep black canvas behind.
It all looked so fake.
Niké stared hard out of the viewport, trying to convince their brain that what they saw was reality. Those huge, unimaginably strange bodies outside, so alien compared to the cool Martian sand they grew up on. So cold and barren, devoid of life or shelter. Niké squinted their eyes. Still doesn’t look right, they conceded.
“Niké!” The old caretaker bot shouted down the connector.
“Yeah,” Niké responded distractedly, eyes glued to the surreality of such an immense spectacle. The unfathomable vastness was just wrong-
“Nee-Kay.” Came the synthesized voice again, stressing the syllables. It always got their attention, and not for good reason.
“What, Tink.” Their reply was flat.
“You ever been shot, meddy?”
The medic paused for a breath, surveying the wounds on the soldier’s shoulder and abdomen in an instant, flicking through mental textbooks to adapt to the worsening situation in front of them. “Can’t say I have, L.T.”
The lieutenant grimaced under the medic’s ministrations, their breathing shallow and constant. “It’s funny.”
“Funny.” The medic chuckled distractedly, “what’s funny about a hole dug into you?”
Warning: this story contains brief situations revolving around a lack of control and use of power over another. If that makes you uncomfortable, please return to the Archives.
SystemStartup; run VitalStatistix
– GetStatus: Sleeve*; -GUI
– Error: Sleeve5; stat=Interference.LeftShoulderServo
– Request HotTransfer=Y
– Agent Found: #500392010-4A
– Initiating HotTransfer
The rushing sound of data and light, like a torrential waterfall of endless bits and bytes cascading over her head, was suddenly dulled by the sensation of having ears again. And eyes. Oh god, and a mouth, too. She could sense herself in a small, well-lit room, painfully white and sterile to her newfound sight. Sleeves hung in their rubber harnesses, charging up for the night’s festivities; basic skinjob bots like these rarely had the glamorous gigs.
The city bustled around Harald as he made his rounds, delivering things from far-off cities and towns to the east. The colonists here were trying their best to survive on the border of the salty flats that stymied most attempts at growing anything, but it was their connection to their old lives that truly gave them purpose.
Most had shuttled here when there was a promising find in the desert: a ruin out in the desolate wastes of white, crystalline salt. The problem was, most that searched for the ruin were lost in the flats, for every direction looked the same to the horizon once you lost sight of the foothills. The people that built this little town – Trestle – were those who stood on the precipice of that vast and daunting expanse and realized the folly of it all.
(Warning: This story contains mention of suicide. If this is something you don’t wish to read about, please return to the archives here.)
door.17 opened. door.17 closed. heat readings identified as human; fourteen(14) prosthetics detected…zero(0) essential cybernetics detected
door.18 opened. door.18 closed. door.18 locked.
The AI slid between pipes and wires, giant transformers latticed between cooling units and fans galore. The deeper it went, the more complex and maze-like it all felt, as though the very core of the planet were nothing more than a quantum collection of endless piping and machinery. It often wondered whether that might one day become the truth.
“Sometimes, you just need to sit and bask, bake, under an uncaring sun.” He inhaled slowly, as if drawing in the very heat around himself. My ears were so poised for his next words I almost missed them in the background noise.
“Because, daughter mine, the world under your feet, the grass and insects and animals, all that wind and rain and ceaseless molten activity?” He exhaled his breath as if it were smoke from a tasteless cigar; a habit that he’d kicked but that followed him like a stray dog, “It barely notices your passing. Unless you Make it notice.”
The glittering iridescent hide of the beast shimmered in the pulsar’s light, dancing across the thick exoskeleton in waves; an interstellar tide.
“Fifteen months of service, and where do they put me?” The frustrated voice crackled out of the radio.
Sighing, Ebriette paused in their work, hanging on to the metal latticework of the communication tower with one hand and increasing the volume on the receiver. “Let me guess, Milo. ‘Out in the middle of an ocean’.” Their reply was dripping with as much sarcasm as they could muster through the thin clinging film of the high-altitude-breathing-apparatus; or as the insufferable goon in charge of training had cheerfully explained, HAPA.
(All characters of the graichic race are hermaphroditic, and do not have gender-specific pronouns; a singular they has been used in place. If this becomes too confusing, it will be switched to a different pronoun.)
The waterfalls were deafening, even from so far away; like so many rains happening further below, all thunderous cacophony and deep bass rumbling. It filled Fa with such a peace that the last month’s hardships were slowly ebbed away, and they allowed themselves a few moments of dozing in the early summer sun, surrounded by their raichii who splashed happily in the waters. Fa was nearly asleep by the time they felt a nudging head poke into their abdomen.
“Where is Mo, Fa?” Came the little voice from beside them.
Deep green fluid, transparent and illuminated from all sides by miniature bulbs, gurgled quietly as it circled in the pool. As it poured over over a head the size of a small house, steam jetted along the length of it, hissing in the slight viscosity coating it. Multiple symmetrical grooves ran lengthwise along the almost-humanoid jaw, though the shape resembled that of a warship’s prow more than a human face. Circuitry pulsed with life in these channels, a veritable night’s sky of lights blinking in and out in a lazy pattern. The metal beast slumbered wearily, its languor clear as it idled within the restoring bath.