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SciFi short stories Short Stories




     Given the fact that people cannot foresee all eventualities, nothing can be made fool-proof. There can never be, by the same logic, a set of rules that covers all situations. When confronted with these facts, humans resort to deploying other humans; reasoning, discretionary beings; to preside over issues of concern. And this is how Jephet Abramson ended up sitting in the desert in the southeastern quadrant of Impi-el under a neutralizing cloak.

            Long ago, before life-extending nano-technology and its subsequent need for humans to move out into the universe, people began saving their information. This form of immortality began with writing. The preservation of information was finite, however, and tenuous. Beyond the accidental destruction of information caused by the environment, and who did not learn of the history of burning books from the destruction of the library at Alexandria to the Bonfire of the Vanities in Florence to the great public fires of Germany and America in their troubling times of social dislocation? Since the advent of modern computing advancements in the mid-21st Century, however, recording and successfully keeping faithful information became a permanent resource for untainted historical knowledge. There were no more expunging of records, nor bottlenecks of information dissemination.

After years of practice and discipline, any human could have the computer implants set into their brains that would store humanity’s information and allow them access to it at will. An arduous process of receiving certification for implants had developed over time and was itself influenced and mandated by the process which all human advancement has known: trial and error. The history of episodic psychosis amongst the weak-willed who received Information Augmentor technology is one of the first things learned about by fourth years. A steady logic and an assured sense of self are ground into every potential human candidate, meaning all but the two lower quintiles of intelligence, from the time they undertake their educations.

     Taking up station on this gods-forsaken planet was a special privilege reserved for the likes of Jephet for the very reason that he had topped out on almost every test his fellow humans could devise to measure one’s aptitude. Jephet was a free-roaming trouble shooter for the Department of Information. What first began the inquiry that brought him to this desolate planet seemed fairly innocuous, a series of events that could barely be said to have any connection at all. The accidental drowning death of a professor on Distal IV, a break-in at the Meta-Lab on Winchon, a mid-level security analyst gone missing on a climb in Earth’s Himalaya range; these events went nearly unreported and almost without comment. Jephet found the news odd in the frequency with which they occurred in sequence to each other but had his curiosity aroused when the library at New Caledonia was destroyed from a solar panel fire and the subsequent Reclamation Center explosion.

            Too many connectable events too close together brought Jephet here. He sat at the mouth of a cave overlooking a hot, barren valley. Down on the valley floor sat a squat, rectangular building that looked more like a bunker. Around it stood the obligatory solar panels used for power production. Below that building, deep within the ground, dwelt one of the most important, least known archives in the whole of the human universe. Hundreds of feet below the surface sat a digital library with a near up-to-date history of humanity.

            The thought process that led Jephet to the mouth of this cave was something that he at first was incapable of accepting. His mind rebelled at the possibility that someone could conceive of such a plan. The mini data-wipe at the colony outpost of Theba is what set his mind into overdrive though. The colonists sent a request for a reboot of their mainframe to the Department of Information. Someone, it seemed a malicious hacker, had managed to sneak in a worm that sat dormant for long enough to assure that all the residents of the outpost had updated their computer chips. When the worm activated itself, it corrupted all memory stored in every human’s brain chip. Malicious, yes. Malicious but harmless, really. There was no way to prevent the corrupted data from being erased and everyone’s computer’s from being rebooted from the Theban central Data Store for all the members of the outpost. The worm had caused some trouble, to be sure, but it seemed more an inconvenience than anything else.

            Jephet found himself thinking on the event though and then he recalled that the professor on Distal IV had just died days before. That was two events on the same subject, Data Stores. The professor had been a main author of the programming used to transmit updates to the regional Data Store and the Data Clearinghouse’s on every planet’s, outpost’s and colony’s main computer systems. The fire was next; another Data Store event. Jephet’s mind raced with possibilities. His prime induction based on the data, human nature, and some imaginative hypotheticals was that someone was seeking to either wipe out data or install false data into the main cache libraries, the back-up Data Stores. This was a mind-boggling thought. Who could be so audacious, so far-seeing, to decide to alter the history of humanity?       

            The alteration must be something that people do not learn directly as a matter of course, it must be some other, foundational, knowledge that would impact and influence other understanding and knowledge or else people would realize that something had been changed when their actual knowledge did not match up with the background knowledge saved in their chips. To change foundational knowledge would have, could have, enormous affect, Jephet realized. All peoples’ brain chips ran off a synthesis of knowledge for prime induction theory. Induction is taking the particular and attempting to infer something about a larger class of knowledge. Given what we know, we can guess very accurately at unknowns. Deduction is taking the general and applying it to the particular. Deduction, when the larger area of knowledge is true, always yields facts that are true. Induction, on the other hand, is guess-work, educated guess-work. The brain chips that nearly three fifths of all humans have installed in their heads assist in inductive reasoning as well as information storage. A computer chip uploaded with more knowledge and history than any human could know ran off algorithms and processed questions and inquiries against an intricate tapestry of information nearly infinitely divided into multiple categories and classifications. When a person needed to make a decision, they were able to pose their quandary within the framework of an inductive question and have the computer in their head give them a number of prime inductive computations.

            Changing the framework of the inductive question allowed the individual to re-frame the parameters of the inquiry performed by their computer chip which in turn altered the type and category of the cross-referential data their chip used to achieve prime inductions. This was the sort of test Jephet had been so good at while being measured for a possible career at the Department of Information. It’s what got him here, on this deserted planet.




     The cave mouth in which he sat, was overhung by a large rock affording him cover and cool shade. The neutralizing cloak he had deployed was most likely unnecessary given the rock above him but Jephet had decided not to chance giving away his presence given the intelligence of his possible quarry. Anyone who could think as deeply as he suspected someone was doing if his theory was true would make damned sure that they were alone when they walked into that building down there to alter the Data Store. Besides, the overhanging rock would protect his life-signs from registering on a scan of the area from space or even from a craft in atmosphere but it would not protect him from a scan pointed up at the mountain the valley below. The neutralizing cloak did. It offered him a dome of protection four meters around cancelling out all bio-rhythmic vibrations as well as infra-red readings.

            No one was scheduled to be out here for an update for at more than 30 standards and there was only one colony on the planet, on the near exact opposite side. No one would show up here accidentally. Jephet induced this Data Store to be the next stop on the perpetrator’s journey given the pattern of travel for the events cited previously, the travel time needed to get to each Data Store, and the schedule for each Data Store’s update in the near future. There were five central Data Stores in the universe. At least there were five of which Jephet was aware. As precaution against any number of unforeseeable cataclysms, the Department of Information had built five similar caches in five dispersed areas of the galaxy. Each had its own unique features and each was used exclusively as a system for which all the known history of humanity could be stored. Rarely were these locations visited except to upload information. Each was built on a geologically stable planet and each was equipped with its own stand-alone power grid with triple default redundancies. Truly, the power was a non-essential component of the buildings as the systems were deep enough into the planet that the temperature in them was a constant and once the data was written into the computer’s memory system, there was no power needed to keep it secure. The power systems were important for the reason that power would be needed in the case that some event occurred that made it essential for someone to gain access to humanity’s history. Nobody alive would enjoy climbing down a three hundred foot ladder to gain access to the computer.

     Jephet had been living in this cave for almost a week standard waiting for his sensors to raise the alarm that he was not alone. To combat boredom, Jephet had been recalculating and re-aligning his search and inquiry algorithms trying to come up with new prime inductions for his problem here. There were a few inductions that could be reached with his hypotheticals other than that someone was bent on tampering with humanity’s history but they required torturing what he knew of human nature in his propositions and adding a fair number of events from recent history that he would be loathe to include as relevant. If he did not add his hypotheticals into the events he’d noted, nothing untoward was going on. In that case, he would waste a week or so sitting in a cave in the desert. But this was his life.

Other than this, Jephet spent his time in the history books of his mind searching through the raw data that informed his chip’s decision-making processes and playing games against his computer. Relaxing back onto the cool ground, this is what Jephet chose to do now. Closing his eyes, he opened the file for Pungiball. The computer cast upon his mind’s eye the arena, the nets, and the players illuminated in their opposing colors. Jephet chose blue, precipitating the computer’s need to open the game with an offensive move. Jephet always liked watching the opening salvo of his opponent in Pungiball because he felt it gave him an advantage in seeing his opponent’s mindset in the way he spread out his players and moved them down the field. Pungiball was a game of counter-moves where you relied upon your opponent’s momentum and form of attack to inform your course of action, much like the ancient martial arts of Judo and Aikido. His computer was a very good opponent, sometimes even winning a game, but it lacked the spontaneity and improvisation required in such a free-flowing game involving an open field and multiple players as Pungiball. Just as he relaxed into the game and began to feel the flow of it, his alarm sounded.

     Jephet opened his eyes and rolled over onto his stomach. Grabbing the scanner to his left, he raised it to his eyes and focused out onto the plain below. Just then, a craft darted into view, slowed, and touched down near the desert bunker. Unbelievable, he thought. A man exited the craft and proceeded directly to the Data Store building. Not very cautious, he noted, he must have no inkling I am on to him. The man was not bothering to scan his surroundings nor set up a dampening field for his ship.

Nice vessel though. The ship was a T1-11. A high-end interstellar model capable of wormhole jumps with white hole re-entry, and electro-magnetic stabilizers to make the ride out of a star less violent than usual. The vehicle spoke of a good deal of money. Either the man in the valley was wealthy or he worked for wealthy people. Twenty more meters, and I will find out which, Jephet thought.

     As the man closed the distance, unaware of his impending capture, again Jephet wondered what someone could hope to tamper with that would alter peoples’ decision-making paradigms. Finding the five Data Stores was a feat in and of itself. Erasing or corrupting peoples’ memory files was, also, an enormous undertaking. These things, taken individually, had caused Jephet distress. These things, alone, were worthy of high levels of attention within the Department of Information. But what Jephet had found more worrisome was the induction that these two prospects could only be informing, could only be ancillary to, a greater goal. Someone had figured a way, or at least was confident that they had figured a way, to alter archived history in a way that would change the decision-making paradigms of everyone’s brain chips. Not only that, they thought that this change was to their advantage. The scope of what that change was, and how it could benefit someone, and who that someone might be, chilled Jephet to the core on that hot mountainside on Impi-el. This was not the first time he had settled into that utter stillness of fear while thinking on this subject.           

            The reason that this subject, this inquiry, was not a matter of attention at the highest levels of the Department of Information was because Jephet had also induced from his multiple analyses that there was a high probability of someone within the Department acting in this plan. The break-in at the Meta-Lab on Winchon, for instance, could be overlooked as newsworthy except that this was the lab that stored all the iterations of brain chip algorithms and their programming software. Not many people knew about this. The researcher who had gone missing on Earth, also not too noteworthy, was a mid-level analyst. But that mid-level analyst was hiding in plain sight and was, in actuality, a Data Store updater. This was also something not widely known. The professor, everyone knew, had programmed the Data Store systems but that publicity could not be helped if someone needed to get his information.

            There were many members of the Department of Information running around the galaxy looking for what these incidences meant and trying to understand if there were connections, Jephet had no doubt, but he was the only one camped out on this lonely rock and the only one who just activated a neuralizer field around the building that just rendered his suspect unconscious. Now for some answers, he thought as he climbed out of his hide and began clambering down the mountainside.

Short Stories

The Great Recession

Marjorie looked through the rear-view mirror of her white Dodge Caravan watching Craig descend into the parking lot of the construction site. All the while, please, please, please, please, running through her mind as she rubbed her crucifix. Craig had been unemployed for more than three months now since his unemployment insurance ran out; since the company for which he’d worked more than fifteen years had folded up shop two years into the recession. This summer was brutal in more ways than one. With only four days of rain in this area of New England over the last two months, every step Craig took in his steel-toed boots caused pillowy plumes of dust to erupt from the ground and swirl around his ankles.

Craig walked with determination down the hill and through the gate of the construction site, shoulders squared, back ramrod straight. He’d seen the job posting online first thing this morning and drove with Marjorie straight to the site to apply in person. His gait was uneven. Watching him, you could tell he had sustained a severe injury that rendered him incapable walking properly. His steps were similarly measured but he seemed to throw his left leg out in front of him based on the momentum of his body rather that by using his thigh muscles. He also seemed to sink slightly lower when landing on that leg. Odd walk though it was, Craig was lucky to be alive, much less walking at all. Six years ago he’d been pinned against a concrete abutment by a front loader’s bucket, crushing his pelvis on the left side and snapping his left femur in two places.

Ah, shit, Jim thought as he looked out the site’s management trailer. Another one? He turned to Matt, “Doesn’t anyone around here have a job?” When Matt looked up, Jim tilted his balding head toward the window and the figure bobbing down the path toward them.

“What’s with his walk?” Matt asked as he got up from his chair. “He looks like a puppet on strings.”

Jim grunted his laugh out. “I got this,” he said in his cigarette-etched baritone as he swiped his hard hat off the table and walked out the trailer to intercept the man.

Craig walked briskly, with purpose, straight up to Jim. “Craig Stevens,” he said, extending his hand. “I came by because of the ad you posted online this morning.”

Jim grabbed his hand and shook it. “Jim Pearson. Site supervisor. I’m sorry to say that job is taken already.”

A shadow danced across Craig’s face but he pushed on, “I see your laying down some HDPE over there,” and nodded at the men near the trench who were welding together forty foot lenghs of high density polyethylene piping. “I’ve got five years on that McElroy fusion machine.”

Jim eyed the man, toe to eye.

Craig pushed on before Jim could again tell him that there was no work for him. “I also got a Massachusetts hoister’s license, certified for hydraulics, and got my DOT. I passed my Connecticut MIG test and started out as a pipe-fitter. Anything you got going on here, I’m sure I can help,” he finished, looking over Jim’s shoulder at the welding curtains beyond the trailer.

Jim thought the man looked ex-military, the way he stood. As short as he was, coming only to Jim’s shoulder, Craig’s presence was still substantial. He was squared off, his head held high.

“Look, fella…”

“Craig,” Craig repeated.

“Right. Craig,” he paused. “I posted that ad this morning and you’re the fifth guy to come by and my phone hasn’t stopped ringing. I’m sorry but we can’t use you.” With that, Jim involuntarily glanced down Craig’s left side again as if trying to see the injuries that caused the man to walk the way he did.

When he looked back up at the man, Craig was staring at him with resolve. The stare broke into a smile. “Fair enough,” he said. “Do me a favor,” he continued, reaching into his breast pocket, “keep me in mind. I’m more than twenty years in, licenses and certifications for all over New England. Any job’ll do.”

Jim looked down at the slip of paper. It said, Craig Stevens with home and cell phone numbers and an email address. He looked back up at the near-crippled man. “You got it,” he said as he clasped the man’s extended hand and shook it.

Craig turned on his heel and began walking back up the slope to the waiting Dodge. Looking at the man with his shoulders squared and head held high, the thought occurred to Jim, near-crippled but not broken. He followed up with a, “good luck.” Without looking back, Craig raised his hand and waved in acknowledgment.

At the job site’s fencing, Craig’s attention turned to Marjorie. Even from this distance, he could see that she was watching the proceedings through her side-view mirror. He focused on his gait, trying to walk as normal as possible back to the minivan. He’d met Marjorie in the hospital after the accident. She was his rehab nurse after the accident. Marjorie could tell by the size of his limp how much pain he was in and so he focused on making his walk seem as normal as possible. She had enough to worry about, he thought.

That was too short, Marjorie thought as Craig turned from the man and proceeded up the hill. He didn’t get it. Another one. Tears welled in her eyes. Not for the first time, a shriek of outrage echoed through Marjorie’s mind that life was unfair. Craig was the best man she had ever met and he did not deserve what had happened to him. The man who had done this to him was a drunk and a drug addict.

She noticed that when Craig looked up and caught her face in the side-view mirror, he began to walk more smoothly. Trying to hide it from me so I won’t worry, she knew. The welling increased until a single tear rolled down her cheek. As Craig came around the passenger side, she wiped her cheek.

The grim determination on Craig’s face relented as he crested the hill and came upon the passenger side of the Caravan. He opened the door and fell into the seat, the only concession to his injury. Pulling the door shut, he forced a smile onto his face and turned to Marjorie, “Well, they’re all full up. Someone beat me to it. He said that I have a lot of qualifications and if they need someone else that he’d call me so I gave him my card.” At the lie, his smile flickered slightly. He hated like hell to lie to her but, really, she worried enough about him already. It was not a woman’s job to take care of a man but this recession had hit the construction industry particularly hard and most everyone he knew was living off his wife’s paycheck.

Marjorie saw the lie flicker across his face but let it pass. Craig was such a good man that he could not lie without giving it away. There was no reason to call him on it though. He was so bad at it that she always knew and there was no harm in his lying while trying to protect her. She let go of her crucifix she’d been rubbing and turned the key in the Caravan’s ignition as she smiled back at him, “That’s good. I’ll keep my fingers crossed.”

Short Stories

In Dreams She Comes

In dreams she comes to me upon the

Carpeting sand,

Dancing snow-white promise lilies in

Her gentle hand.

“Know you what love is made of in this

Barren land?”

“Our diminution toward simplistic from

The grand.”



In dreams she comes to me upon the

Carpeting sand,

Dancing snow-white promise lilies in

Her gentle hand.

“Know you what love is made of in this

Barren land?”

“Our diminution toward simplistic from

The grand.”



Have you ever dreamed a poem? What a horrible experience—to pass a test like that only to awaken to the realization that she is to marry another. All this day I have walked and sat with that hollow in my belly influencing my view. Who else could I want after such a one and, thinking thusly, who else would want me?


I go in less than two months to a wedding and a funeral in that desert; for surely I will sacrifice some part of myself on that same alter where they make their vows.


“Boulders do not budge,” she also said to me last night, “for want of motive.”


I do not know whether to take offense to that one or not.


Upon stepping outside for my second walk today I confront a new sign on the acupuncturist’s window across the street which reads: “New Community Outreach Acupuncture” and in small letters to one side, “sliding scale.” So I walk over, being who I am and the day what it is, to ask if she could be of any assistance with my heartache.

I confront the smell of more than sixty glass jars of various herbs and a kindly old Chinese woman as I step inside the store. She stands on dried, old, maple floor boards twice her age that creak as she walks toward me. I imagine the noise as emanating from her very own joints as she approaches. Confronted with my question, I am surprised to hear her claim that she truly can help me. My next thought naturally is that she is merely attempting to part me from my money for, as she had just posted this “sliding scale” sign, I suspect maybe business is slow and, as the man says, no one ever got poor underestimating the intelligence of the American public. I think that would go doubly when applied to Eastern medicine in a Hippie part of Vermont susceptible to such philosophies.

First, to business. We discuss her rates, which are normally $40 a session. For something the nature of my problem it will take six sessions over sixteen days I am told. Given my pay-rate, she says she can knock the fee down to $15 a session. Cure my heartache for $90? My interest is piqued enough to continue on with the interview since the dollar amount is not entirely offensive.

We move to the next phase and Mrs. Hu, she introduces herself as, begins to explain where the pain I experience comes from and proceeds to break out those diagrams of human bodies with lines and dots all over them showing acupuncture points, nerve lines, chi-flow and meridian spheres. All this is not completely foreign to me as I’ve lived a varied and colorful life. The charts show points throughout the body that correspond to points on the head and, more particularly, the ears.

Mrs. Hu points to the lines of the body that control the symptoms of my malady and simultaneously shows the points on the ear she would be sticking needles into in order to open the chi pathways and relieve the pain. Before we begin, she says, she will need to ask some probing questions to get a better idea how to customize a remedy.

I find this odd seeing how a broken heart’s pain should not be effectible by the circumstance of its damage. Still, I continue the interrogatory, suspending my incredulity with the knowledge that Eastern medicine is holistic. So the questions begin.

“How long has this problem been?”

“About two years now.”

“So long? Why do you not seek assistance earlier?”

“I have,” I say, “but the different things I have tried have not worked.”

She looks at me with seeming suspicion. “This is not a healthy state to exist. If it goes untreated you do permanent damage to body.”

“Like I said,” I repeat, “I have tried a number of different things. Trust me. I do not like this pain. I do not like waking up in the middle of the night from it. I like my sleep.”

“Ahhh yes,” she says. “Lying down usually brings problem,” as if I confirmed something.

What does lying down have to do with anything, I thought. Maybe she means sleeping.

“Okay”, resuming, “diet?”

“My diet?” I ask surprised.

“Yes, yes. What diet?

Eastern. Holistic, I remind myself. “Not much protein. Since I do not have much money it is mostly starch: rice, pasta…like that.”

She nods, then, “fruits? vegetable?”

“Some. Not enough. Before this I used to eat a salad every day, not any more though.”

“How long?”

Again, “about two years since I moved from the desert.”

“Two years? Same as heart ache?”

“Yes,” I say, “when I left there my diet changed. I was working in a health food store and eating very well. I moved to Connecticut and my diet went back to the way it was before I was working at the store.”

“Hmmm,” she said scribbling on her clipboard like she had just found a corner piece to a jigsaw puzzle.

A part of me, confronted with the possibility of actually be ‘cured’ of this, starts to wonder if I would go through with the treatment. Like a scar, the ache is a memory. I hear her Echo in me and I am not really sure I want it do die. I was half-joking when I walked into the store but am now being confronted with a reality I had not foreseen.

“Exercise?” she asks.

“Not much these days. I just moved into town and have not joined a gym. I used to do martial arts, a few years back,” I say, trying to impress her with my oriental exercising. I get no response though.

“No exercise?”

“I walk around a lot but I don’t do it regularly for exercise. I want to start going to the gym in town but I just moved here and have not gotten around to signing up at the gym or the pool.

“Do you think it is important?” I query.

“Yes, yes. Very important for mind and body.”

“Would it keep my mind off my problems?”

“Not so. You exercise to keep chi flowing and meridians balance. Exercise can do same as acupuncture. Once I fix, you exercise to make balance. Yes?”

“Yes,” I say as she looks back over her notes. Diet and exercise are fine things for a good life but I am failing to see how adjusting these inputs in my life were going to help remedy the impact of the woman I love marrying another unless they would give me the courage to stand up at the wedding and object; so I ask, “How will this, the diet and the exercise, help with my heartache?”

“Heart ache is from poor diet and no exercise. I remedy problem right away with altering chi flow but you alter diet and burning not come back again.”

“Yes. Burning in heart. Heart ache.”

Oh, for fuck’s sake.

I could not stop myself from laughing as I explained the difference between ‘ache’ and ‘burn’ in English to this poor woman. She laughed too and told me that she did not have a cure for the ache, only the burn. But, she said, walking and exercise and the chi flow of martial arts would lessen the blow of the heartache too.

I agreed and bowed my way out of the store as she tried to sell me Holy Basil and Valerian root for my broken heart.