All Hail Autumn

free-sci-fi-story

We're happy to present you with several autumnal treats: a viral short story from Austen McGee, a trippy prose-poem from Meghan Rose Allen, and the winning recipe from our annual Con Suite Culinary Contest. Salud!

~~~

The Virus

by Austen McGee

“Director T’Kar?” Gogar shouted. His words echoed through the system monitoring hub before finally reaching their target. “I think we have a serious problem.”

The large, grey-skinned creature in the center of the room roared and stomped his way toward the source of the voice. “What is it this time?”

Gogar waved a webbed appendage at a series of angry red dots on one of the bright screens before him. “It’s the HS.SolMW virus again.”

T’Kar grunted, a sound loud enough to make Gogar jump in his chair. “Great. Just great.” Without asking, he reached out and touched the display, unleashing a flurry of information. “I thought we’d taken care of this particular problem. Well, at least the infection doesn’t look that bad at the moment. Use standard anti-virus package Q37-B.”

“Sir. I’ve tried that in simulation,” Gogar said. “It was only thirty percent effective.”

“Really?” T’Kar leaned in for a closed look, black eyes scanning the screen. “Try G14-R.”

“I’ve run that as well, plus several dozen other variants. The best outcome has been from the M43 branch at eighty-two point three percent effectiveness.” Gogar looked up at the Director. “I’m requesting we do a full system wipe and restore.”

T’Kar shook his massive head. “Unacceptable. Anything over eighty percent falls well within specification. You know the procedure. Run the anti-virus and quarantine.”

“But sir!” Gogar said.

“Did you not hear me? Quarantine it!” T’Kar repeated, louder this time. “And send your data to the techs down in the lab. They’ll figure out how to clean the rest.”

“Director!”

T’Kar growled. “More bad news? Out with it.”

“I’ve already tried quarantine. The protocols no longer seem to be effective.” Gogar pointed to the red virus indicators blinking on his console. “It’s spreading like mad and chewing up resources across the entire system! The latest projections show that anything short of complete removal will result in a full reinfection.”

“A full wipe though? I’d be happier than anyone if we could clean out this virus for good,” T’Kar said. “But the amount of time and resources a full restore will cost. . .”

“I’ve tried everything else I can think of, sir. I can’t see any way around it,” Gogar said.

“What are the latest projections? What kind of timeline are we looking at here if we can’t quarantine?”

Gogar looked back to his screen. “Within a hundred cycles, the virus will have infected three adjacent systems. At five hundred cycles, that number jumps to over ninety at the current rate.”

T’Kar rubbed his eyes with a massive paw. On the display before him red indicators covered the screen, illustrating the spread of the virus. Even as he watched, a new dot appeared. The virus had spread to the system’s eighth planet.

His eyes followed the trail of red inward, toward the center until he found the source of the virus: a small, blue-white world, three planets from the local star.

“Run the system wipe,” he said at last. “And route it to the overhead monitors.” T’Kar chuckled, a rare sound. “If we’re going to do it, we may as well enjoy the show.”

Above his head, the large monitors switched from their local system status maps to show a bright yellow sun. On screen, the star visibly dimmed as the first stage of the system wipe rapidly stripped it of its hydrogen.

“Not too much to see here,” T’Kar said. “Give us the internal view.”

The image changed to a virtual representation of the inside of the star. Without enough hydrogen to support fusion, the solar material rushed inward, atoms packing in tighter and tighter within the core.

“Star is now at white dwarf status, Director. System wipe eighty-five percent complete.” Gogar said.

T’Kar nodded his approval. “Finish it up.”

On T’Kar’s command, matter-- heavy metals mostly, according to the readout on the screens-- was rapidly injected back into the star’s core. The simulation flashed a warning. Due to the extra mass, fusion within the star was about to reignite.

“Switch back to external. Let’s see the results.”scifi-story

The results were a brilliant, system-wiping supernova.

“Status?” T’Kar barked.

“All traces of virus gone. The system is one hundred percent clean,” Gogar said.

“Such an innocuous looking planet to be home to such a virulent form of life,” T’Kar said. “Nice work, Gogar. We’ll need to get the system rebuild started. I’ll let --”

“Sir,” Gogar interrupted.

“What?”

“I just picked up an unexpected warp signature. There!” Gogar pointed. A single red dot appeared on his console in the Alpha Centauri system. A moment later it was joined by a second, and then a third.

T’Kar looked at the ceiling and exhaled sharply. Against all odds, the damned human virus had managed to survive again.

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” he said. “Okay, try anti-virus package P16-Z. And Gogar, I hope you don’t have any plans. It looks like it’s going to be a long night.”

~~~

L

by Meghan Rose Allen

Lise and Liz eat lunch on the lam. Their teacups are violet    fresh wash    soap bubbles a plenty.

-- Let's look Liz says.

-- Yes let's replies Lise.

The wall's filigree layers bulge alongside long loops of linked twine.

Lise and Liz eat lunch on the lam while laughing at Lars' linoleum losses.

-- Loose change Lise did laugh.

-- Loose tiles Liz replies.

free-scifistory

-- Loose teeth.

-- Loose nails.

-- Loose fabric.

-- Loose morals.

-- Lost lamb.

-- Let's order less feed.

Lise and Liz eat lunch on the lam while laughing at Lars' linoleum losses    late night loquaciousness last call for libations.

-- Liquor and vittles    comestible chow

-- Attendant and -- Steward!

Scheele's green    cupric hydrogen arsenite    AsCuHO3 loses tincture leads to walls leaning to black.

-- Garçon!

Liquefying windows lugubriously vanish. Liz and Lise feel the walls melting lachrymiform-like.

Lise and Liz ate lunch on the lam, laughed at Lars' linoleum losses with late night loquaciousness    last call for libations    a lacuna surrounds them in a lotophagous light.

-- Well Liz recounted.

-- Yes Lise replied.

Her hand clasps her right. Her hand clasps her left. Up down diagonal. Up diagonal down. Stand together alongside.

Like an M.

Marvelous    maenadic    magnificent    M.

mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

~~~

Armadillocon 2018 Con Suite Culinary Contest Winner

We run a unique culinary contest in the convention's excellent hospitality suite at Austin's Armadillocon. Contestants are challenged to come up with their own original recipe using only the ingredients available to them in the suite. This year's winner:

Tomi Welch's Virgin Watermelon Wow (margarita)

pulverized watermelon, strained
crushed blueberries, strained
juice of one tangerine
mix well, serve chilled

~~~

About the Creators

Austen McGee lives just outside of Philadelphia with his wife, two children, and a pair of demon cats. In addition to family activities, he enjoys college football, driving his Jeep with the top off, and trying to master the craft of brewing beer. Follow him on Twitter @AustenMcGee.

Meghan Rose Allen has a Ph.D. in mathematics from Dalhousie University and a certificate in creative writing from Humber College. Previously to this exact moment of time, she facilitated business courses for youth in Ethiopia, evaluated cryptographic algorithms for the Canadian government, and taught mathematics courses at Mount Allison University. She has called New Brunswick home since 2012.

World's Shortest Creator Interview

Austen McGee

Here's a quote: "Language is just a dialect with an army." What modern language do you think should be immediately disarmed, and why?

Definitely English. I'm always impressed by people who are bilingual. Those who are bilingual with English as a second language though are absolute geniuses. Every language has a quirk or two, but English - it assaults speakers with rules and conventions that just don't make sense. It must be stopped! Don't believe me? Here's a few examples:
- Tier and Tear are pronounced the same, but Tear and Tear are pronounced differently.
- In almost every other language this fruit is named some form of "ananas", but in English it's a Pineapple.
- Go have a chat with your friends about what time frame bi-weekly, bi-monthly and bi-yearly all refer to. Good luck...

And if you think that's bad just using it day-to-day, try being a writer or editor...

The robot overlords have gifted you with the choice of one cybernetic module that will make one of your existing skills or traits all bionic and stuff. What do you choose to buff up, and what would be the unexpected plot twist?

I was the first human to ever enter the tournament "Rock, Paper, Scissors to the Death!" The Machines were built for the game. I was not. They laughed when I entered, but I won. The great Kharlax himself offered me my prize: to be the first to become more than human. An eye, an arm or a leg. I chose the arm. I was the best human Rock, Paper, Scissors champion before, and with the arm, I would become legend.

I was never again defeated after that day. Unfortunately, it only cost me all of my human friends. Who wants to lose a hand when my arm attacks with its pre-programmed "scissors-cut-paper" move as a response to "give me five," or have their offer of a fist-bump viciously crushed by a "paper-covers-rock" attack?

Meghan Rose Allen

Fonts. What is the metaphysical meaning of Times New Roman, and is font abuse a crime that should have a corporeal punishment? 

The metaphysical meaning of Times New Roman is the same as all Serif fonts: namely, there's always wiggle room at the end of every line.  If you aren't a fan of wiggling, you could instead think of it as back-and-forthedness.  Or even when you stop you have to run around a little.  Also, those serifs make it harder to topologically deform one letter into another, which could be useful in, as Tom Lehrer would say, a very bizarre set of circumstances.

My daughter's school sends every piece of information home in Comic Sans.  I guess they subscribe to the Jerry Gergich idea of always screaming fun when they need to tell me that cafeteria services have again been suspended or that the new rule at the school is that children have to crawl over any patches of ice in the playground.  Should I join the Parent-Teachers Association just to overthrow whatever administrative staff cabal is enforcing this Comic Sans rule?  Or is it simply that that font is selected in Publisher and no one knows how to change it?  There are a lot of questions I have about their choice of font and I'm not sure who to direct them to.  So I'll direct them and my displeasure to you.  Please advise my daughter's school that they do not need to use Comic Sans unless they are writing a comic.  Even then, probably not.

So, to answer the second part of your question, yes on days that end in "y."

If you had to officiate an internationally-viewed wedding, who'd be the bride and groom? What would your delicious viewing snack be, and how would you dress for the occasion?

Potential details... with shoelaces, or without? Would you wear a cosmetic vole, alive or otherwise?

I've only been to one wedding I've enjoyed, and "been" might be too strong a word, because it wasn't like I was actually there as much as I watched the episode of The Office where Jim and Pam get married, and this is the enjoyable wedding to which I am referring.  But that wedding was filmed/took place in the USA and I'm in Canada, so we've got the "internationally-viewed" part down.  So let's have that wedding be the one I officiate.  In fact, let's have it so that whenever any people get married, instead of their wedding, we all just watch Jim and Pam get married on The Office (some exceptions can be made -- maybe every sixth wedding should be Leslie and Ben getting married on Parks and Recreation since I can't remember any other TV weddings I've seen.  Oh wait, Andy and April got married on Parks and Recreation too!), with me officiating.

Keeping in the tradition of that time I watched Jim and Pam get married, I was in pajamas, so let's stick with that.  Since I don't wear shoes while in pajamas, obviously "without shoelaces."  Vole optional.  Capybaras required.  Snack will be matcha-flavoured kit kats.

About the Artists

Geralt and PublicDomainPictures are visual artists on Pixabay.

Our very own D Chang is a designer and game writer from Austin, Texas. His short fiction has appeared in Avast, Ye Airships! and the Cryptopolis science fiction anthology, and he has a janky retro JRPG on Steam. He does the Space Squid illustrations, editing, and other squid stuff.

 

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