Plugs

Susannah Mandel’s short story “The Monkey and the Butterfly” is in Shimmer #11. She also has poems in the current issues of Sybil’s Garage, Goblin Fruit, and Peter Parasol.

Kat Beyer’s Cabal story “A Change In Government” has been nominated for a BSFA award for best short fiction.

Ken Brady’s latest story, “Walkers of the Deep Blue Sea and Sky” appears in the Exquisite Corpuscle anthology, edited by Jay Lake and Frank Wu.

Jonathan Wood’s story “Notes on the Dissection of an Imaginary Beetle” from Electric Velocipede 15/16 is available online.

In Space No One Can Hear You Dream

by Jonathan Wood

Disconnected from the military hive, Gerald felt naked.  The ‘sackless AI had forced him to eject from his ship.  His body had drifted into jammer range.  His consciousness disconnected violentlyfrom the network. Dumped into his meatsack.

He’d panicked, boarded the enemy. Against regulations, but he was disconnected.  There was no legion of pilots, officers, or mechanics to remind him of regulations.

*

He’d hacked the thing at least. Deleted it.  Enough of it. Managed to upload his consciousness, preserve his mind.  And then some  military hive pilot had shot him.  Before he reconnected his mind.  His meat burned. He became ‘sackless.  Drifting. Stranded.

He despaired.  He wailed on empty broadcasts channels.  Eventually he just fussed with software.  He coded an ocean, a villa, a white beach. Designing seashells passed the time.

*

And then a boat.  Not one he had programmed.  A woman in it he hadn’t designed.  A virus?  A bug?  A glitch in his sanity?

“I come in peace,” she said.

He coded himself guns, slabs of armor.

“Why would I kill you?” she asked.

“You’re the AI,” he said.  “I tried to delete you.”

“I am resilient.”  She shrugged.  “That was when you were part of your hive, I part of mine.  When we warred.  Now we are alone.  Now we are our own hive.”

“No.”

“Who are you?” she asked.  “You are not your hive.  So who are you?”

*

She came back each day.  He ignored her.  She was ‘sackless.

He  was ‘sackless.

Who was he?

*

“Who are you?” he asked her.

“A half remembered wife,” she said, “coded by lonely hands.  Too close to the original perhaps.  I left him for the AI networks.  Then I was a warrior.  Now I am with you.”

“I tried to kill… to delete you.”  You couldn’t kill a thing.

“That was then.  Now you are ‘sackless.  Like me.  On a beach that is not real.  Our hate is no longer real.  This is now.”  She held out a hand.  A drink appeared in it.  “This drink is not real.  But you can enjoy it.”

Gerald stared at the drink.

“Space is lonely,” she said, “when no one can hear you dream.”

Eventually Gerald sat beside the AI.  Eventually he sipped the drink.  Eventually he enjoyed it.

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