|Image courtesy of Victor Habbick / FreeDigitalPhotos.net|
Today's post however is dedicated to the winners who can choose to receive their prize as an Amazon gift card or PayPal payment.
- First prize (£50 value) goes to Lee Tonks for his story 'The Last Mother'
- Second prize (£20 value) goes to John Moralee for his story 'Dream Baby'
- Third prize (£10 value) goes to Michael D Brooks for his story 'Making Change'
Congratulations to the winners and please share the link to this page wherever you can so more people can enjoy these excellent stories.
The Last Mother by Lee Tonks
My sons and daughters,
By the time you read this I will be long gone, but through you our legacy will hopefully live on. As I dictate this I'm staring down at my home, or what remains of it. Earth was once beautiful and in a way it still is, but now the surface is red and scorched, the cities burning, the atmosphere poisoned by weaponry so terrifying I can barely bring myself to contemplate it.
They are gone. All of them. Not a soul remains on the planet below.
I am standing in the observation lounge of Orbital Science Platform 7. I have been here for several hours now wondering what I should tell you of myself, my family, the human race, our home, our achievements, our failures, our ultimate destruction at our own hands. And I've decided that it doesn't matter, none of it does. All that matters is that we survive, that the human race in some form or other continues. What came before is meaningless now that it's all gone.
The other scientists have taken the shuttle and headed for the moon-base. They begged me to go with them, of course, but I refused. For one, at least two of the missiles were aimed directly at it; we watched them pass. For two, even if the base survived there is no hope there - no air, no water, no food. Once the supplies are depleted all that awaits the people there is a slow, lingering death. That's not for me.
This facility was originally charged with studying the long-term effects of space travel on human and animal biology. In the past few days I have taken every human egg I can find from our stores and fertilized them in the lab. As a result I now have around two hundred thousand viable embryos, which I have frozen into twelve canisters and loaded into the life-pod. The pod was intended to enable the staff of the platform to survive for only a short period in the event of an accident, but frozen embryos do not require air or water or heat. The vacuum of space will ensure they remain frozen.
Soon I will also load the pod with as much equipment and information as I can find that will help explain how the embryos can be revived and brought to term. I've programmed a single burn of all of the pod's fuel and this should give it enough momentum to carry it out of our solar system and away. Away from all this destruction.
These embryos are you. If you are reading this then I have succeeded; some other civilisation has found you and revived our species from oblivion. It's a small hope, but it's all I have.
The oxygen here will run out tomorrow, but I don't intend to be around when that happens. For now I'll enjoy the silence and mourn my world just a little longer.
Take care, my children.
For you are humanity.
Dream Baby by John Moralee
My unborn child moves inside the membrane between our ship and the hard vacuum of space, squirming in delight as she downloads memories of Earth from the archives. She floats in the zero-gee tank as though that was how she was meant to be gestated – without the comforting warmth of my body and womb. It makes me ache to see her that way – but it can’t be done another way here on the Orbital, where everyone must fulfil their duties to the ship. The regs don’t permit pregnancy.
I feel my flat stomach and sigh, regretting my decision to leave Earth for the Orbital, where life is hard and short. I press my hand against the glass and connect to my baby’s neural link. I feel her emotions. She’s content. Blissfully happy. She doesn’t need me, her mother, not with the ship giving her everything she needs to grow. In a few months she will be ready to come out of the incubation pod – but for now she is still forming, an embryo swirling in a tank of nutrients against a background of stars. She’s lovely, and she’s mine. I feel a wave of love for her, but also apprehension.
The Orbital is not a place for a child.
An orange jumpsuit reflects in the glass. It’s Stefan floating down the tunnel from the hub. He grabs me when he reaches the birthing chamber. He grins.
“Are you going to stare at her all day, Lu?”
“I’m off-duty for another three hours,” I say. “This is how I relax. Watching our daughter.”
“I can think of another way we can relax.”
“I know you can. That’s how we ended up with a baby in space. Shouldn’t you be guarding the executives on omega deck?”
“They’re in a meeting in the bubble, interfacing with the AI. They let me have an hour. I’m bored, Lu. Let’s go to our cabin.” Stefan kisses me – but I pull away.
“Did you feel that?”
He frowns. “What?”
“Something is wrong with the Orbital.”
“You can’t possibly know -”
But I do. The stars are moving behind our baby – which means the ship has altered course. Our nameless child reacts by curling up into a ball, a defensive gesture against whatever unknown thing is affecting the ship. My skin tingles like it has been brushed with cold feathers.
The view outside has changed. Now the purple gas giant is visible. Stellar data confirms my suspicions. We’re no longer in a stable orbit. We’re heading towards the upper atmosphere at greater and greater velocity, where the Orbital will break apart like a popped balloon … unless … unless …
“What’s happening?” Stefan says.
Our baby turns in the tank. Her tiny mouth forms a smile.
I know what is happening. The neural link to the ship works two ways. Our child has hacked the ship’s network. She’s taken control.
She doesn’t want to live here.
We’re going back home.
Making Change by Michael D Brooks
“There’s something wrong with that kid, I tell you.”
Ammon sat in his favored black recliner and stared at the wall-sized entertainment screen, but did not consciously see the images or hear the sounds that projected from it.
“You're an old-fashioned, close minded relic that’s going to break if you don’t learn how to bend,” his wife countered.
Beset sat in her more brightly colored recliner and glanced over at her husband before she returned her attention to the screen.
“It's not natural, Beset.” He sipped his brew, but did not really taste it. And though his eyes were hypnotically fixed on the entertainment screen, he intently looked at something only his mind saw. “I’m not saying it’s wrong or anything—”
“Then what are you saying?” she demanded.
“I’m saying it just doesn't seem natural to me. That’s all.”
Beset remained silent until the next commercial break before she turned and addressed her husband.
“Joachim loves Lawrence, he loves her, and they’re going to have a baby together. You’re going to be a grandfather. I’m going to be a grandmother. I don’t see anything ‘unnatural’ about that.” Beset sniffed derisively once then glanced at the screen intent on not missing her favorite show’s return from commercial break.
“Yeah, but did you see that ultrasound?” Ammon barely heard anything his wife said. “The darn thing looks like an alien or some kind of space baby or something floating around in there.”
“Pause,” Beset commanded. The images on screen froze and the sound muted. The irritation in her voice was unmistakable. She turned from the screen and looked squarely at her husband and said nothing. The silence in the room between them grew. She stared at him as if her eyes could bore holes in his skull. After what seemed like an eternity, he looked at her. “Listen, you old coot,” she began, peppering her speech with short, precise sentences. “Joachim is our daughter. We love her very much. We want her to be happy. Lawrence makes her happy. I’m happy with that and so are you. And the doctors have all said the baby is healthy. There is nothing wrong with the baby. And when it’s born, we are going to love it unconditionally. Period. End of story. Do you understand?”
Ammon stared blankly at his wife, took another sip of his drink and said. “Yeah, I understand, but why does it have to be human?”