Android and Eve

Flash Fiction Friday is a series currently curated by Alanah Andrews. If you’d like to submit flash fiction for publication, please contact Introvert Press.

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Android and Eve

‘You know, I’m gettin’ real sick of these hunks of junk takin’ all our jobs.’

Steven glanced over his shoulder at the woman behind the bar, then looked at Roy with amusement. ‘You mean these hunks of highly intricate circuitry and flesh reproduction?’

Roy waved his hand in the air, as though fanning Steven’s words away, and took another long sip of his beer. ‘Don’t matter what pretty words ya use, Steve. We both know that they’re just flesh covered computers, walkin’ and talkin’ but you know what they ain’t doin?’

‘What’s that, Roy?’ asked Steven good-naturedly, tapping his finger lightly on the side of his own empty glass. He had heard the rants before, from others, but Roy had generally been, if not exactly an android-sympathiser, at least indifferent towards the AIs.

‘They ain’t thinkin’, Steve,’ announced Roy. ‘Not really. They just do what they’re programmed for. That one behind ya, pouring beer is prob’ly all it knows how to do. Just cogs and wheels turnin’ round tellin’ it to put the glass under the tap and pull the lever.’

‘So how’s she going to take your job?’

Roy sighed. ‘Not our jobs, Steven,’ said Roy. ‘We are artists. We are creative. Ya can’t program creativity.’ Steven thought that calling themselves artists was a bit of a stretch. Working in image manipulation for the local advertising agency was a job which required more patience than creativity.

‘How could you tell she was an AI?’ Steve asked with amusement. From their positioning at the table, the woman behind the bar looked completely human to him.

‘You can jus’ tell,’ said Roy, knowingly. ‘Plus, you can see the difference when ya look into their…’ he gestured towards his eyes. Steven nodded. It was a subtle difference, but if you knew what to look for you could tell older androids from humans by the thick ring around the pupil. Something to do with the optical zoom on older models. Newer androids, of course, with newer technology had no such flaws.

‘But if androids can only do menial tasks,’ said Steven, reasonably, ‘why are you so worried about them taking all the jobs?’

Roy drained his beer, slapping the glass down on the table with a loud clink. Then he leaned in close to Steven, one hand on his shoulder in confidence. ‘I said they can only do what they’re programmed to do.’ His voice was low. ‘Didya know there’s one in parliament now? Far out, we’ll have a robot prime minister in my lifetime if things don’t change.’

‘Roy,’ said Steven kindly. ‘You do realise AIs were granted citizenship before you were even born. It makes sense that some are slowly becoming represented in parliament.’

But Roy wasn’t listening. ‘It’s jus’ plain wrong,’ he said loudly, and Steve noticed with some embarrassment that the woman behind the bar was watching them. ‘They ain’t got no soul ya see. God made Adam and Eve not Android and Eve.’ Then he snorted. ‘Guess that means Mary-Anne’s gonna end up in hell with no-one there beside her.’

 Steven looked sadly at his colleague. Now it made sense. The rant, the anger. ‘She’s moved on then?’

Roy didn’t answer. Instead, he clicked his fingers at the bartender and gestured towards his glass. She nodded and started pouring another.

‘Moved on? Yeah, guess ya can call it that. I call it downgraded. Couldn’t get another living human to love her, see? So she had to go for a computer.’

‘I’m really sorry, Roy. But you have been divorced for a year. You must have been prepared for this.’

As they talked, the bartender came over with Roy’s beer and placed it on the table, collecting the empty glass. Up close, Steven could see the tell-tale ring around the android’s pupil – the clue that had tipped off Roy.  ‘Excuse me,’ said Steve suddenly to the woman. ‘I was just wondering if this is your fulltime job?’

Roy glared at Steve.

‘Oh no,’ said the bartender, smiling ruefully. ‘I’m actually studying medicine. I just work here to help pay the fees.’

Roy looked as though he was about to choke on his beer. Steven thanked the woman and turned back to Roy. ‘I guess they don’t just do what they’re programmed to do.’

Roy furiously chugged down his beer and wiped the froth off his moustache with the back of his hand. ‘It coulda at least had the decency to wear contacts,’ said Roy, gesturing towards the bartender. ‘Rather than flaunting its…’ he waved his arms around, searching for the right word.

‘Artificiality?’ suggested Steve.

‘Yeh, artificiality,’ repeated Roy. ‘Anyways, I’m gonna hit the hay. See ya at work.’

As Roy left the building, the bartender came back over to the table to pick up the empty glass.

‘Why haven’t you told him?’ she asked quietly.

Steven just shrugged. ‘I thought we lived in a world which wasn’t divided by race.’

‘We do. And you shouldn’t have to hide who you are.’ She gestured towards Steven’s face, towards the contacts that he always wore.

‘I’m not here for a lecture,’ said Steve, rising abruptly and heading towards the exit. The woman’s robotic eyes bored into his back all the way to the door.

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Alanah Andrews is an English teacher in Australia, who dreams of one day travelling the world in a bus. If you like her writing, check out her website: www.alanahandrews.com

The Truckstop at the Edge of the Universe

“Piece of SHIT! Turn on, damn it! —Testing. Testing.—OK, there we go. Red lights across. About time! I can’t believe this actually worked. No! No! Don’t you do it! You stay right there! Don’t make me hit—I swear to —There, that’s better. Holding the red. Nine minutes and twelve seconds. Moving on.  How do I start this? Ages ago? In the beginning? No, no, too cliché. Once upon a time? What other way is there? Damn, why did it have to come to this? It should never be this difficult.

I suppose the beginning it is, but only for a moment. I really don’t see much of a choice at this point and I don’t have much time. When all else fails, right? Let’s get this over with.

Since time is slipping through my fingers and I don’t see any way out of this mess and never believed in miracles, I should probably just get on with it and get right to it. I’m not sure who’ll hear this, but I’d appreciate anyone at this point. Even the Blugenns could make their ugly appearance and I wouldn’t give a shit. I’m hoping this rigged relay will at least reach the Omega Gate, and local harvesters will pick up on my signal, but even at their top speed I’m guessing it would already be too late. Time moves funny out here. So I’ll make this proverbial message in a bottle as quick as I can and tell you what I know so far, to anyone who may be able to hear it. Damn, based on the clock, I’m estimating less than three hours before I’m nothing more than a bubbling flesh puddle, sizzling on the floor. I hope this works. I don’t want to go out like that.

The following is my official last will and testament, and full confession. I confess to my actions today in this manner to hopefully bring peace to the mates and children of the fallen.  If this message is found, please share this with all remaining members of my family. They may be hard to find, some I haven’t spoken to since I was a child, and some won’t even care, but regardless they need to hear it. In fact, the whole universe needs to hear it. We’re in some deep shit—Right. Let’s do this.

I’ll start this off by saying; all great empires eventually come to an end. At least all the ones I’ve heard about have ended.

Earth was no different than any other self proclaimed empire throughout the cosmos. Earth was just a tiny speck of rock among many other puny specks of rock.

Five thousand years ago, the mighty Earth ceased to harbor life, as you probably already know. Or maybe you didn’t. Surprise!

The human’s planet continued to spin on its axis while orbiting the sun, and its tiny moon still rotated around the lifeless rock, but all living things on Earth’s surface were extinguished in the blink of an eye.

The destruction was thought to be the result of a cataclysm which wiped out all sentience in the Milky Way Galaxy and beyond. Nothing survived in the galactic local group. Microbes, bacteria, and the building blocks of life were annihilated. Trees and flowers turned to ash. Thermal vents at the deepest points of the oceans stopped venting.

Some of our varied historians say an omnipotent malevolent force was responsible. Others tell stories of a cosmic explosion. A black hole was trapped inside, or might have collided with, another black hole, and the overlapping gravity wells pulled in a supernova, or a pulsar, or some such shit. I’m not a scientist nor will I claim to be. I don’t know how it happened. Who really knows what happened? All we have now are the stories, whether true or not, passed down from generation to generation. Fables of ancient worlds.

To be honest, no one really cares about history anymore, unfortunately, including me. There’s too much to do to even give the theories a passing thought. In the Exterior, my home at the outskirts of the Vega Grid, life moves too fast.

Once hearing word of the galaxy’s destruction and the Milky Way and other sectors now devoid of life, independent missions were established by volunteers, contracted through the Elite class, to retrieve anything in the cosmos that may prove to be of value. Remnants of cultures and fragments of history were salvaged from these long dead worlds and brought back to the Exterior for study and trade. When the travelers found something worth recovering, the galactic scavengers then sought out legitimate buyers across the region.

Everything has a price. And that’s where I come in.

Over the millennia these scavengers adopted the name, Truckers. An old Earth title. Transporters of goods. The front line for supplies. To those in the Exterior who’re hearing this, you owe your lives and livelihoods to the Truckers. If not for them, we would be merely a fraction of what we are today. We all need to stop taking everything for granted.

Sometimes the Truckers would be months and for some, years, before returning to the Exterior. Their extended missions would drain their ship’s drive engines, and they’d be forced to wait until enough energy was replenished in their reserve tanks, so they could have enough to jump back home. They’d return tired, missing their families, children and pets, but if they were lucky and diligent in their labor they’d have enough material stored in the cargo bays ready for distribution to keep them from having to venture out again for many months.

They’d find soil deep in the ground where it was still fertile, free from toxins, and usable for growing plants and crops. Plants you eat today. Perhaps eating right now. Are you enjoying that sweet corn? Thank a Trucker. Do those copper tokens pay your worker wages? Thank a Trucker.

They’d bring back gems, water and ice blocks, rusted chunks of steel, gold, coal, seedlings from the underground vaults, and the gases harvested from a planet named, Jupiter: Hydrogen, methane, helium, ammonia, and for a small elite group occupying the interior of the Exterior, sulfur was brought back for a reason we still speculate on.

Who am I to ask questions? Best to mind my own business.

That’s what I do best. I mind my business.

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Jeremy Morang Bio: Father of two. Enjoys the simple life. Dreams to one day be published. Lives in a small town in Central Maine. Works with adults with physical and cognitive disabilities in a quality assurance capacity. Been writing seriously since 2011. Love my family, my new dog and relishing every moment with my wife. Enjoys eating dessert first. Works on a personal blog mixing fantasy and autobiographical stories named, Tales of the Chronicles.

The Upper Twenty Percent

Short Story Sunday Series

By Michael Recto

When Vilfredo Pareto once observed that 20 percent of the peapods in his garden produced 80 percent of the peas, he painted a tangible picture of how the world truly works.

Equality is an illusion. No amount of idealism can produce equilibrium. A man’s effort can bring him to the pinnacle of success but he can only shift the distribution, not the balance of power. 80 percent of the effects are always brought about by 20 percent of the causes. The movers, the shakers, and the trailblazers, there can only be a handful. Only the upper 20% can move the world.

This is the law of the vital few.

This is the Pareto Principle.

“Cool lecture Doc Gray!” said a massive man with a bony structure and a holstered M16. “So HQ sent us out to a God-forsaken warzone because….?”

“Because we’re the society’s upper 20 percent Branigan. We’re the best of the best!” commented a bespectacled man in an Army uniform who laid a tray of coffee cups near the bonfire.

‘Just the four of us?” asked a red-haired woman in her mid-30’s who sat with them around the bonfire. “It’s not a convincing 20 percent compared to the cowards in the army.” She turned to the bespectacled man and held out a hand. “No offense Doc Gray.”

“None taken Yllana. And you’re right, they are cowards.” Doc Gray reached for a pair of binoculars and stood up to walk a few inches away from the bonfire. He trained the binoculars at a far horizon where masses of tanks, missile turrets, and Armored APV’s lined the shoreline. “As unfair as it might sound, I wager that they’ll launch the coup’ de grace as soon as we incapacitate our target. They’ll take the glory for themselves, and we go back into the shadows.” He trained his binoculars toward the mouth of the volcano, a few miles from the volcano’s base where they set up camp. He watched the flock of ravens which he ordered to perch at the mouth.

“Poor ravens,” said a young man in his early teens who was curled up near the bonfire. “How can they take the heat while perched at the volcano’s mouth?”

“They can’t young one. The ravens are laying down their lives for us so that we can stay safe.” answered Yllana. “Doc Gray ordered them to stay there. If they fly away, it’s an indicator that the monster is about to come out.”

“But they’re dying up there. What’s the use of killing them if we’re supposed to save everyone in the city?”

“Geez Damien. Get a grip!” Branigan lumbered over to the young man and placed a huge hand on his head “Better the ravens than killing people right?”

Damien swiped Branigan’s hand away and stood up. “I’m not a child. You lay a hand on me and I’ll turn your hand into glass.”

“Take it easy Damien, he was just trying to comfort you, in his own clumsy way I guess.” Yllana chuckled while glancing at Branigan who got perturbed at the young man’s stubbornness.

“Fucking emo kid! Now’s not the time to be sorry for fucking ravens when you need to stay fucking alive!”

“You kiss your mother with that mouth Branigan? I left my kids back home because thank God, I’m tired of babysitting and I want to kick some monster butt” Yllana stood up and held a jungle knife at the flabbergasted Branigan. “I’m itching for a target practice so don’t, make me!”

“Why scold me?! He’s the one who’s acting like a brat here!” Branigan scowled at Damien who took a few steps back away from the bonfire.

Doc Gray approached Damien from behind and landed a slap on his back. “He’s just nervous team, isn’t that right young one?” Doc Gray smiled at Damien who shot back with a glare.

“I said I’m not a…”

‘Yes, Damien. You’re a man! And you became a man by coming with us, facing your fear.” Doc Gray smiled at Damien while beating the young man’s chest with a light, open fist. “You’re part of the 20%, the strongest among the mortals out there. This operation will not succeed without you and your powers.”

“That’s right Damien. You are a responsible with us. We have a city to protect and we thank you,” said Yllana as she returned to her spot near the bonfire.

“Y-you’re welcome. I’ll…do my best.” Damien kept his eyes low to hide his bewilderment at the endearment that the two were showing him.

Branigan smirked while poking at the bonfire to keep it lit with its measly charcoal. “Heh! Don’t get cocky now kid. It’s not a successful mission until we get home alive.”

“I think that’s better,” Damien commented while taking back his seat. “I’d rather die here. There’s nothing to for me in the city to go back to.”

“Motherf…” Branigan stopped when Yllana glared at him. Branigan wiped away the terrified expression on his face and faced Damien. “Don’t jinx it kid! Not like you, I have a life to go back to!”

“A life of booze, strippers, and gambling I infer,” said Doc Gray while adjusting his glasses.

“Hey Doc, it’s a life! A darn good one! Once the Institute pays up, I’ll be painting the town red, baby! You should join me sometime Doc! Too bad you’re not old enough to drink Damien!”

“No thank you, and don’t drag the young one into your, um, decadent lifestyle Branigan. We don’t need to contaminate our youth further with the dregs of society like you,” said Doc Gray. A cold air hung between the four as they remained silent. Branigan stared at the stoic Doc Gray until little by little, he shook into laughter.

“Good one Doc! Good one!” Branigan slapped his thighs while laughing and the tension around the group melted away.

“Damien, isn’t your family waiting for you?” asked Yllana.

“I don’t have a family,” Damien answered and the group fell silent. He took a deep breath while ignoring the curious eyes on him.

“I…I never knew my parents when the institute took me in. What I know is that they gave me a made-up identity so, I’m not even sure if Damien Shields is my real name.” Damien kept his eyes on the dancing embers of the bonfire. “That city doesn’t know me so why bother protecting it. But I just…want to make her happy. She loves this city, so I’ll protect it for her.”

“Her?” Branigan asked.

‘Well she’s…”

“A friend of yours?” Doc Gray also asked.

“She is but…”

“Your girlfriend?” Yllana’s lips started curling into a smile.

“F-forget I said anything. It’s…” Damien’s cheeks flushed and he tried to break eye contact with the group. Everyone, other than Damien, started chuckling at the flustered young man.

“Ah, love is a worthy reason to protect the city. There’s no need to be embarrassed about it,” said Doc Gray.

“She’s one lucky girl isn’t she?” commented Yllana while smiling at Damien.

“Well fuck me! Somebody here just hit puberty! Come here lover boy!” Branigan wrapped one enormous arm around Damien’s neck and pulled him in to ruffle his hair. Damien tried to pry Branigan’s arms off him while the rest of the group laughed. “Don’t worry kid. I’ll give you pointers. They always work, First you…”

The ground rumbled and the group fell silent. Branigan let go of Damien and followed Doc Grays’s gaze to the top of the volcano. The ravens perched at the mouth flew away and a couple of them tried to escape with burning wings until they plummeted to the nearby sea. A giant reptilian paw with claws that glinted like silver emerged from the mouth. It held on to one side of the opening and created a small crevice that released a thin river of oozing lava. Another gigantic paw rose from the opposite side of the mouth and clamped down on the rock with its sword-like claws. The two paws pushed downward, ripping away a sizeable portion of the volcano’s upper cone, inundating the volcano’s side with a wave of lava, a few meters away from where the four stood. A colossal head of a horned lizard soon emerged from the fiery lake. It shook off the lava that doused its horn and let out a garish roar to the heavens. The group felt the air vibrate as if they were a mere few feet away from an explosion. If it weren’t for Branigan who had the good sense to stand in the way of the shockwave, Yllana, Damien, and Doc Gray would have been blown away.

“Lady and Gentlemen, behold the Basilisk.” Doc Gray walked in front of the group and stood before the Basilisk as if introducing a beautiful wife to his friends.

“W-we’re taking down that thing?” Damien stared at the monster with terrified eyes.

“With a little help from the Army, right?” asked Yllana.

“I’m afraid not, my dear,” answered Doc Gray. “And yes Damien, we are taking it down. The missiles and tanks along the shoreline are for back-up, albeit useless.”

“Sounds fun Doc. So we can kill that thing?” asked Branigan.

“The Institute wants it alive but they are all fools anyway. We kill it if it becomes a threat.” Answered Doc Gray.

“That’s easier for us,” said Yllana.

The Basilisk crawled out of the lava and started to move toward the sea. It kicked splashes of fiery liquid upon every step, hurtling some of them toward the group. Yllana stepped forward and drew her hand across in a diagonal line. An invisible force cut through the blob that sped toward them and it split into two, clearing it away to keep the group safe from being doused with lava.

“I’ll stay around to protect Damien! Branigan! Doc! Keep that thing distracted!” Yllana slashed her hands across her again to cut a clump of rocks that was crashing toward them.

“I don’t like taking orders missy but I’m on it!” Branigan squatted with his muscled legs and jumped with enormous force, creating a small crater of igneous rock from where he once stood. He

“Damien! I need 10 spears. Just use the rocks around you. Just holler if you’re done. Alright, sweety?”

“R-right!” Damien confirmed. He ran to a nearby clump of rocks and held one on each hand. He summoned an invisible force that sent currents of electricity toward the rocks until they glowed. When he was certain that the current was enough, he slammed the two rocks together until they melded into a silver slush. He held the viscous material and pulled it apart like it was clay. The silvery goo crystallized until it took the form of a blade with strings of electricity running around its glimmering edges.

“That’s one.” Daniel whispered under his breath and then dropped the electrified blade behind him.

“Good work son. Such a fine blade.” Doc Gray smiled at Damien and then took off his eye glasses. “Will you hold this for me?” asked Doc Gray while handing over his glasses to Damien.

Damien took the glasses and his eyes went wide when looked up. Doc Gray’s eyes turned lacquer black and jet black feathers started protruding around his body. Three avian claws burst out from each of his feet and blankets of black feathers grew from under his arms. The man’s body expanded until his clothes laid tattered beneath him. The painful transformation continued until a giant red beak shot out of what was once Doc Gray’s old face. A 5-story high raven stood before Damien, ruffling its feathers to shed some of the cloth that clung in between the spaces of its wings.

“All that pain for the liberating feeling of flight. It’s worth it,” boomed Doc Gray’s groaning voice from above. “Branigan needs help. Stay alive young one. Your girl and your city need you.”

“Doc! Wait!” Damian shouted when Doc Gray was about to turn to take flight. Doc Gray eyed Damien with pearl black eyes, his head doing the small, jerky, twitching that was characteristic of a bird.

“Doc! Why are we here?” asked Damien “Why of all people, we…”

“Why of all people, we are the ones who are burdened with these, talents, you mean?” Doc Gray interrupted. Damien nodded and waited for an answer.

“Because of the Pareto Principle young one. Nature has dictated that we are the upper 20%,” answered Doc Gray. He lowered his head until Damien saw his own reflection on the giant raven’s eyes. “It’s not a law but more of an observation. As much as Man strives to make everything equal, Nature will always see to it that the distribution is uneven. Man’s existence on Earth is a contamination as long as he delves deeper into the secrets of the Universe with his knowledge and technology.”

“But I didn’t want this. No one can protect her so I’m forced to do this! I’m here because no one can!” shouted Damien.

“And that is your answer young one. As part of the upper 20 percent, your duty is to serve the remaining 80 percent. The Law of the vital few. Nature needs it but humans keep disrupting it. I am here to teach the fools we are protecting that Nature will always conquer us. Nature is the perpetual 20 percent. Man’s persistence to lord over Nature will bring about disease and destruction to us all but they will learn their errors, long before we’re gone.”

Doc Gray raised his head and began flapping his immense wings. “You and I are among the gifted Damien. Thus, we are no longer human. Nature has invited us to be part of her, among the upper 20 percent who need to decide the fate of the remaining 80 percent. She is just after all. She still lets us handle our own fates.”

The air around Damien and Yllana swirled as Doc Gray lifted himself up with the current. He glided toward the rampaging Basilisk who was locked into a battle with Branigan. The Basilisk squirmed around the lava as it desperately tried to catch Branigan who was jumping from one side to another, sending haymakers at each of its legs and pounding its fists on the beasts head. Doc Gray, as a giant raven, buried its enormous claws on the Basilisk back, sending the beast writhing in pain. Damien and Yllana watched the battle from the distance as they prepared 10 spears to act as sharp missiles for the monster.

When he was done with his 8th spear, Damien glanced over at the horizon where the mass of tanks and missile launchers lined the shore. “Cowards, all of them. They’re not worth protecting,” he whispered. “I don’t trust them. Once this is over, I’ll follow Nature’s law. I’ll finish them all.”

Black Swan Planet by James Peters

Hello folks.

So I only share reviews on books that I rate personally with 5 stars, we don’t have time to waste with anything else, right?

I had the privilege of reviewing Black Swan Planet by James Peters.

This book is the typical boy meets girl meets chimpanzee meets a time jumping space Queen meets Galactic armies meets Barbarians meets the Tonton Macoute. I’m not sure which impressed me more: the crassness of the wit, the depth of the science, the expanse of the galactic landscape or the plot which never failed to keep me glued to the page. After finishing the book, I’m  left recalling, simultaneously, the hilarity of the crazy antics and the poignancy of the message. It’s a sci-fi book for sure, but it is so much more. This book is not for the faint of heart. It is however for anyone wanting to blush from adult humor while really pondering the circumstance of humanity. It’s like no book I’ve ever read, which is why I think I’m left with this wonderful feeling after reading it.

I wish it went on longer.

GO. Buy it!

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