Novellas: Works in Progress

Excerpts

Beyond the Origin
Howard Beck

Primordial

I want to go home, I keep saying this over and over in my head. But where is home, I have no clue. It's not where I am, it's not where I was, I don't think there really is a home anywhere. But here I sit on the toilet staring at the wall, the third time today, sighing over and over again and thinking, I want to go home. I get up from the toilet, turn and look inside the bowl, nothing.

I wipe my ass and see a couple smears of shit on the paper, guess I really didn't have to go after all, but it felt like it.
Good thing the cleaning station is next to the toilet, I can wash my hands in the cold water and stare at the mirror while flicking my long graying hair off my face. Good thing I shaved the other day, otherwise my hair would be sticking to my face from all the stubble.
I stare at my aging face, I once was a young man, now, today I'm turning into a senior citizen. Where did the time go, I have nothing to show for it really, anyway, time to go back to the main cabin and join my fellow crew members on our journey to a newly discovered black hole deep in the Splinter Galaxy, 15.3 megaparsecs from Earth.

Months we've been heading to this destination, scientists on Jason Richter 4 gave us the coordinates and said this is the "one". The black hole of all black holes, the one that will lead us to new dimensions and new worlds. But they've been saying that since 3120, nothing came of any of them.
"Jahn, it's about time you got back, we need ya man." Tristan Olsen says to me as I enter the cabin. Tristan is the captain of the ship, the leader of the pack, the main dude, the head honcho, you get it. "Yeah, well, you know us old farts, always going to the bathroom." I replied taking my station.
The main screen had a view of what was in front of us 40 million kilometers away. All I saw was blackness and a few stars, is that what a black hole looks like? This was my first black hole trip, I only stayed around clusters near home, there's that word again, home.

Mary Jane Poole was sitting next to me, she was the main science officer on this probe, she had more knowledge of black holes than anyone on Jason Richter, she was a genius, studying these phenomena since she could walk, literally, she started out as a toddler learning science. She was young, blonde and well endowed, my lecherous old man was coming out of me, I secretly glanced in her direction periodically daily just to keep my juices stirring, they were withering up just like my face, gotta keep young somehow.

I look at the clock, it's 2:27, seriously, why do I keep looking at this clock for, we don't really go anywhere, anywhere of significance, just empty space. I know, I keep bitching about everything, if I didn't want to be here why was I here. Well, because, I might be a bug up someones ass, but I was good at my job, a great navigator, just something I was born to do, like Mary Jane, I always had a way with directions.

But now that I'm getting old and have been to a lot of places, I'm starting to get bored with it all. I'm hoping this trip, my first long excursion will be exciting and memorable. A black hole, come on, that has to be a freaking fun ride. The whole idea of this trip is to actually journey into the hole, not just record and witness it, but actually penetrate the damn thing, see where it leads. And yeah, it could be dangerous, but I'm getting old I need some excitement other than Mary Jane's body, which I'll never really get to, well, you know. I give out another sigh, look down at my hand all scaly and blotchy, withering and wrinkly, damn, I'm getting old. I turn the knob next to my right hand, just a smidge, the ship turns right three degrees, the main screen has the same view as before, three degrees isn't much, but that's where the next heading is for finding the hole. "Jahn!" Tristan yells out after I made the adjustment, "good job!"

Ah, a pat on the back, for doing my job, awesome, love my job, love the people I work with. I'm such a schmuck, and I still want to go home, wherever that is ... sigh. "Course 1, 4, 6, 9.0, relative bearing 4, 6, 2, 9." I let the captain know the coordinates so he could tap them into his personal log console. "Cool Jahn, got it, thanks bro, you're a god send."

Damn we're so polite, and after all these months traveling together, not one hiccup, not even a bitch fight over food in the mess hall, amazing, even with my temperment, how the head honchos put this crew together is beyond me, the psych tests matched us perfectly, I'm not being sarcastic, honestly. Our ship measuring 120 meters in length, is a Class Five Turbo EMB Plasma Quantum Reactor, full gravity turning spaceship with twenty solar sails for smooth riding. Made from the best materials known to man to get us through the black hole without disintergrating on impact with the heavy gravitational pull and we should be able to withstand any heavy G forces to keep the ship intact and not fall apart once inside the hole.

Although, the engineering crew, Steve Callis, Steve Ray and Steve Ayers, who were born in a CRISPR mind link genetic syrup for efficiency, know how to handle much of the unknowns since most have been through a few black holes already, this is just the most prestigious black hole known to us at this time. The unmanned probes have been able to penetrate and return safely so the ship can withstand whatever the black hole can throw at us. It's just a shame the unmanned probes didn't maintain video, audio or data records due to the radiation destroying the data on those probes once they returned back to our system. As the black hole got closer, the ship started to feel the pull from the gravity, stretching the ship forward, bending to the left and right, causing the ship to tip and bounce, alarms blasting as the ship starts to enter the black holes portal entry, next thing I know I start to grab Mary Jane and tear her jumpsuit from her body, revealing her huge breast and erect nipples, I start biting down on her nipple and tearing at it like a dog with a stuffed animal, tearing flesh, blood gushing... "Jahn!" Tristan yells, "get this ship back on track!"

Awakening out of my strange delusion I was having, I try to turn the nav knob left to fix the projection of entering the black hole, nothing is happening, I can't even see Tristan yelling, the G forces are pulling me back into my chair like an elephant sitting on my chest. The force of the gravity is making the ship start to break up, but yet, it's still intact and just on the verge of destruction.

My mind races to find a solution to get up from this force that keeps me in my chair, I reach out to Mary Jane, who is still beside me in her chair stuck to the back of the cushion and not able to move, I reach my hand out to grab her, but nothing is moving.

"Jahn, Jahn ... Jahn!" Damn, all I hear is my name being screamed into my head, over and over again, I can't move, I can't do anything. As the ship plummets into the void, my mind starts wondering again.

'In the beginning...' What? Oh my God! what is happening to me, then a peace comes over me as I drift in solace, a feeling of ecstacy as my mind wonders incoherently. A voice, not of my own spews out this weird overlay of thoughts.

'There are several theories about the origin, the origin of everything. Is it the big bang or the steady state theory or did God create everything in six days? Whatever theory you believe, there are other theories beyond that. Did everything materialize out of cosmic dust and debris or was it programmed from a higher entity? If you live on Earth, third planet from the Sun, in the solar system on the edge of the Milky Way, you probably believe some, one or all of the above theories. Why is it that man in all corners of the Earth have a version of God, even those people in the farthers of the planet without contact from another human species have developed their own gods to worship or believe in.

Why is it that all men have a god they believe to be the real god and not open to the idea of numerous gods to believe in. Why are we so determined to make our God the right god and your god isn't the one to believe in and kill to get their version of god be the only god to exist. And why is it that killing in the name of your god, a godly act, all others are doomed to destruction in God's name. I don't really know, but I think about it constantly, is there a God, is it the right god, are my gods better than yours, will your god kill us if we don't believe in it, will our gods kill you if you don't believe it?

I don't know, like I said, but I don't think so. I don't think if there is a God, that that god is a killing god. Only man and animals and insects kill, some to feed, others for enjoyment. God as an entity, may be out there or may be in here. I think it's throughout inside and out, beyond your origin and within your being. The truth is, we don't know, but we keep trying to find out.

And so, let's try and find out. Let's go for a ride beyond my mind'. "Jahn!" the voice kept yelling my name, I kept silent and listening to my thoughts once again, this voiceover seems to be going on for hours, I'm unable to stop this flow of insanity.

'Trees are a wonder to me, I have a fascination about trees, they are longevity beings, they're strong, majestic and foreboding. They exist everywhere and strive to reach for the sun even in the darkest of places. Trees are friendly things, sometimes they topple on structures and people, but don't we all sometimes. I like trees, always have, just the structure and internal makeup of a tree is miraculous. Take the branch, how they make up the trunk, all symmetrically aligned surrounding the trunk and spill out to make a branch. They're amazing how they are located almost exactly in the right point and dimension.

Take an insect watch how they move and look closely at how they too are created, miraculously, as a tree, these two entities make up just a couple of the things that are here on Earth. Are they a product of a God that created them to act and look this way, both different but yet identical with their structural makeup. Take humans, clouds, grass, water, atoms, the atom is next in my love for next to trees, the atom makes up everything, and it goes beyond that to subatomic particles and beyond that, don't let them tell you differently, they don't know, they haven't discovered exactly how multidimensional life really is. Way beyond the origin of everything, way pass the start, end all.

Beyond the realm of existence, beyond your "soul". Beyond all dimensions, all galaxies, all space and time. God if it is, is not what you think it is, or is it? Does God exist as it is in heaven and sit on a throne with Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha and other nephilims? Or is God an unseen unphysical being, yea, thou hast been created in the image of God, you say, as the Bible says, but is that image, truly the image of a physical makeup of God or are we in the image of a unseen God, is that inner voice you or God or both?

The image of God can be many things, you have to look deep to find it or feel it or believe in it. You have to truly find God somewhere deep inside your "soul". That thing that makes you tick, that voice in your head, is that God? Is that you? What is that voice in your head, just your brain making connections with neurons passing as a actual substance of valid reality or is that a misnomer playing with your reality?

It's beyond me, beyond what I think or believe, I'm trying desperately to find out what is real and what is not real, and time is running out to find that answer even if you live to be 105, it goes by so quickly, I know this for true, my grandmother who lived to be 104 told me how fast life goes by even at that age. Find the truth, find the real, find the hidden gem that is actually what life is, not just on Earth but everywhere, micro to macro.

Search, find, try to find the answer or not. That too is a way to view life. Don't search, don't try and find an answer, just be. Who am I to say that's not the way to go, maybe there isn't anything other than what there is at this moment in time if there is time. Maybe everything is just moment by moment, nothing past, nothing future, nothing that sends you on your merry way daily, maybe days don't really exist. Maybe everything you think is real isn't.

What if things aren't what they have been told to you, maybe all the stuff we learned isn't true at all. What if it was just made up to keep you from whatever. Maybe there were people who want to control others, perhaps there is a deep state and maybe the world isn't really a real world but a computer hologram. It can boggle the mind, it can make you swim in chaos, is that what life is, chaos?

Things that happen, just happen, not program, not even a hint of structure. Maybe it's all just random bits of nothing making up other random bits of nothing to end in nothing but nothing. Maybe nothing ever was created, maybe everything isn't what we think it is, maybe it's all a lie, fake, made up in a computer. Maybe that theory is true, maybe we don't exist at all.

Are we human or are we alien? Are we both, can an alien species materialize out of a dimension and transfer themselves into an Earth creature and make up that being as two beings from two different worlds, like in my case. When I was a child I saw a something materialize and disappear and wasn't the same since. Did that happen to me or did I make it up or was it a dream, I asked my mother if it was real, she said I saw the spaceship, but am I really remembering that correctly, I can't ask her, she died as did all of my immediate family. Where are they, where did they go, do I contact them in dreams? I dreamed of going to my house, no one was there. I'm on my own with all these questions, and would they or could they tell me the truth, I honestly don't think so'.

Finally this voiceover stopped its persistent gnawing at my brain, what the hell was that, and is it going to return. And what the fuck is it talking about Earth for, I've never been to Earth, this is some fucked up shit. It's fucking scary it what it is. I hope I'm not cracking up, is this space flight messing with my body, am I losing my mind? "Jahn, will you please get this ship on track!" Tristan yells as we drift off course.

"Fine!" I yell back gaining control of the nav knob, turning it left, then right a smidge, just to set our original course into this unknown. The G forces diminished its affect on me, I can move again.

"Jahn, thank you." Tristan says with relief. "Where the hell were you? "I don't know, I've never been in a black hole before, someone could have told me all the shit that happens, like your mind fucking with you." "Well, welcome to the jungle." Tristan says smiling, bringing me into the fold of the rest of the ship who have explored black holes before. "It's pretty fucked up isn't it, Jahn?" Tristan says, "it affects us all one way or another."

"Yeah, that's pretty fucked up, really fucked up shit." I said gaining my repose. Finally, now I feel like I'm one of the crew. I'm a part of something other than my old ugly self, and finally those nasty daydreams of ripping Mary Jane apart are over. I'm back to my normal sarcastic self again, and nobody has to know those evil thoughts I had or those strange thoughts of God or that historical planet. Why was I thinking like that, I have to ask my crewmates what they go through when entering a black hole.

I have things to do, I have to gain control of the ship and head us on the right course and not wonder off in my insanity, at least until I can get us to our predefined destination.

Suddenly I was relaxing and getting the ship on course, I suddenly felt numb and my sight was dimming, all the structures around me were disintegrating, nothing was around, darkness enveloped me, I felt nothing but emptiness, floating in black, just a corner of a cube could I make out, there was a faint light in bars above my vision, but just a meter long, and only a few stretching acoss my view, then a few dots descending to another bar or two of cream coloured lights measuring a meter long to the side of my vision, was I in a cube? what happened to the ship? Where am I?

Where were the crew members, everything was gone, just my thoughts, were these thoughts mine? The cube turned into a sphere, no lights, just darkness, only my thoughts were available. I felt a tugging on my lower body, like I was being sucked into a vat, it stopped, but I hear voices, was that Mary Jane?

Tristan and Mary Jane suddenly appeared to me, I was in my seat in the ship, everything was as it was, damn, I was happy that it was over, what a strange thing. Then suddenly it was dark again, no one around, was this the singularity? Is this what being in a black hole is like?

Ascension

Is this what being in a black hole is like? Is this what being in a black hole is like? What the fuck!

Echoing in my mind or was it? My eye hurts. Damn this isn’t what I expected or even wanted. I thought this would be just another jump in jump out sort of thing, this is totally different. I don’t even know what is real anymore. Every thought, every dream, every thing seems unreal or is it real? I don’t know anymore.

...

443 Inglewood

Howard Beck

Alone, isolated from everything, longing for substance to his life, Nathan Lee Jackson sat on the edge of the northern rim of the Grand Canyon 3 miles west of the main cabins and tourist area. He found himself here haphazardly while programming his Freeform Energy Pod or pod, to travel some place other than the inner cities of The Americas.

Being raised in Inglewood, California, Nathan never quite understood where he fit in. His mother and father were both members of the Inner City Core (ICC), all in tune with the modern technology and brainwashing segments of the fringe elite in charge of The Americas. He wanted something other than what his family and frankly the rest of The Americas were accepting as real life. So, he chose to go to the edge, sitting on the edge of the cliff not afraid of the height or the fear of falling, why should he fear death, his world was pretty much dead in a way. No one was really living anymore, they all just droned around in their fake world of tech and bullshit philosophy.

Standing on the edge overlooking the magnificent scene before him, Nathan let out a sigh of relief after traveling hundreds of miles in the pod over all roads and barriers set up between LA and the North Rim. Having found a little relief finally after all the years of torment he felt in the inner city and the oppression that society was dealing him. He just wanted some time to forget all the bullshit, all the contaminated feelings and struggles of daily life, and hanging out at the edge of the rim was quite satisfying.

He gazed out in the distance at the sunset and shadowing formations from the chasm before him, letting the sunlight soak into his dark skin, the warmth of the sun made him feel warm and fuzzy with all of its complexities of enlightenment that basking in the sun can give you. Suddenly he felt his footing slip and fear gained his soul, “Whoa”, he silently spoke, the fear of dropping 8000 feet to his death scared him. He wasn’t here to die, but live. Fear subsided and he regained his footing, took a breath and stepped back from the edge of the chasm and noticed in the distance something flying towards him, a drone? fuck, dammit! I can’t get away from anything! He saw the glittering object draw closer to him, the glimmering of the shiny metal reflecting the suns setting light, it was pretty in a way, but also ominous.

Fifteen seconds later the drone was on him, peering into his face, making calculations and sending back information to its internal systems and relaying them back to the home server for confirmation. Nathan slowly back away from the drone and it followed silently in the same pattern and speed as his withdrawal. “Damn you!” Nathan shouted at the drone, “leave me the fuck alone!” The drone sat there at the same level and distance, not moving, not doing anything just peering into his soul. Thirty seconds later the drone backed off and flew quickly away.

Fuck, I fucking can’t get away from anything, this damn society and all of its bullshit. He turned from the canyon edge and slowly walked back to his pod, opened the hatch and climbed in and set the coordinates to his North Rim lodging, the Kaibab Lodge.

Nathan reserved a room while still in LA. His cabin was around to the right of the Main Lodge. The cabins were in pretty bad shape, since they seem to be the original cabins built in the early 20th Century. Grit was scraping under his foot as he walked through the room, he could see outside through the logs that made up the wall. The people next to him could peer into his room as with him theirs. What a shithole, but it’s the only place open around this time of year and since his search for remote rural places were few and in between he settled down for the night, but only ONE night.

The next morning upon awaking he noticed that the night had brought snow, not much, but it was different for him, since he was from LA, it never snowed, ever. The weather was different and in a way, pleasing, even though his back was sore from the bed, any kind of pleasantry was rewarding. Nathan grabbed his belongings and placed them in his pod and headed to the Main Lodge for breakfast. The best thing about the place was the Main Lodge, friendly people working the desk and restaurant. All the guests were having breakfast, all six of them. He ordered coffee with eggs and ended up chatting with the couple who shared the next cabin next to him. They had a life in common, from the inner city looking for something real and coming here was their first get away ever. They liked the rugged style of the cabin, even the cold chill that the night had brought. Nathan finished up his second cup of coffee said his goodbyes to the nice young couple and headed to his pod to again program a new coordinate for his rural adventure.

Jacob Lake was just a few minutes away, Nathan programmed the console on his pod to the north, the pod swiftly drove over the asphalt road still in existence from the 20th Century. No one was on the road to Jacob Lake as he travelled pass the forest along the way.

Jacob Lake was a tourist’s attraction with casino’s and carnival rides, created around 2055, Disney Corporation built Jacob Lake into a new Disneyland for the southwest, on their 100th Anniversary. The problem was after a year or two, people stopped coming, so now in 2066, it’s a hillbilly haven. All the cowboys and farmers from around the country started setting up camp, even though the authorities were not thrilled having people set up their “trailer parks”. Nathan still wanted to see the tourist attraction, which was still open and anyone could visit all year, even in winter, they just enclosed the park with a dome to keep out the weather. The lake itself had dried up decades ago, making a nice open field to create the Disneyland park.

Disneyland, Nathan chuckled to himself, I can’t believe I’m going to Disneyland in Arizona. He thought for a moment, heck, I haven’t even really been to the one in L.A. that much.

The pod glided to a stop at 67th and 89A, across from the old Blink station. The store was still open and Nathan pulled in a parking spot and went inside to get some snacks. “How’s it going,” Nathan asked the clerk behind the counter.

“It’s going” the older clerk said, “You here to camp or visit the park?” He asked Nathan, eyeballing him up and down, like he was up to no good. “ You sure you want to be here?” the man asked. “People like you don’t really fit in here, and I don’t see many colored people around here.” Nathan looked a little shocked by the stark implications the man was throwing his way. “I don’t understand, “ Nathan said, “People like me? Like you don’t have black people come through here?”

“Not really, not since” the man paused to think, “a few years ago, since the last lynching”. Nathan was really shocked by that, “lynching? Are you kidding me?!” Nathan shook his head and couldn’t believe that. “I can’t believe you had a lynching, it's 2066!” “Well, you know people, “ the clerk said, “they ain’t ever gonna change.” He scanned the snacks Nathan pulled from the shelf. “If I were you, I’d just keep on going, it’s early enough, none of the residents are going to be out and about this morning."

The clerk bagged the groceries and handed them to Nathan. “I’d get while the getting was good.” The clerk smiled and nodded to Nathan to head out the door. “You know, I might just do that,” Nathan said, “I really don’t want any trouble and I’m just out on a vacation for a while.” Nathan left the store, stashed his items in the back seat and headed west to Bakersfield via St. George and Las Vegas maybe people there would be more friendly. He couldn’t believe people still had bigoted feelings towards black people, even now after all these years, heck even after a couple black presidents and yet. Maybe he should have stayed in L.A. At least he knew where he stood. Out here, he began to wonder if it was safe; even with the Americas drones flying the skies to ward off any potential uprisings. He’d have to rely on common sense and the government to keep to their word of safety above all else, as their motto stated. The pods internal lighting system dimmed for Nathan to snooze until his final destination was complete. He jammed a couple of cupcakes and soda in him to stop his hunger and settled back in his seat to sleep for the remainder of his trip.

Five hours later he was awaken by the sound of honky tonk music, the pod stopped at Hillbilly Harry’s Bar and Grill, in Boron, California. Nav systems alerted Nathan his pod needed recharging.

It was early morning around 7:30, the place was closed, but still trashed, music was still blasting but no one had came in to clean up the place or turn off the music. The thing is, it was only Tuesday, and the place looked like Saturday morning or even Sunday morning, the wretched souls who partied every night made their mark today. He was glad they were all gone, fuck knows what would happen if it was still 3am, and the resident party goers were still drunk out of their gourde and perhaps a little unwelcoming, especially to a man of his heritage. He still couldn’t believe that in this day and age, but bigotry just can’t unwind its ugly head. Nathan saw a menu on the parking lot gravel and picked it up, glanced at the items and latched on to a drink called the 747, a huge portion of cocktails that’ll knock you on your ass. He smiled and thought, what the heck when the place opens at 11am, maybe I’ll have one. In the meantime, Denny’s was open down the street and he’s famished. Denny's, how many were left? Just a few, scattered across the Americas, still the same menu as the 20th century, all the protein and other ingredients were replaced with "syns" (synthetic food substances) but for full impact, it all tasted the same as decades before. Maybe it was the seasoning or perhaps they were just implementing some form of hypnosis to make you think it was still the same. It didn't matter to him, he was hungry and it was really the only place around. 11am came and the bar opened, no one was in the place when Nathan walked in and sat at the bar. The bar keep was a young female around 27, blonde, thin, nice looking and came across as fairly intelligent from what he could fathom.

"Tequila, with a Tecate chaser." Nathan said placing his elbows on the bar. He'd have the 747 after catching a buzz, didn't want to drink on a empty stomach, like Denny's had any nutritional value.

"Sure thing." she said. "So, what brings you to these parts?" she asked. "Vacation, I'm out looking around the Americas". "You know, these parts are pretty dangerous." she said. "You know, I'm beginning to believe you." "Yeah, well, we don't get many people like you here much anymore." "Yeah, I'm beginning to see that." Nathan said taking a sip of his tequila and sipping his beer. "You might want to get out of here." "Yeah, I might." Nathan said drinking the rest of his tequila and chugging his beer. Just then three mean looking dudes came strutting into the bar. Mean looking dudes, white, rugged, asshole looking for trouble. "What the fuck is he doing here." One asked the bar keep. "Hey, he's just leaving." "Well, he better leave now." The men all gathered around him. "Dude, I don't want any trouble, I'm just traveling through." Nathan said. "Well, pay up and get the fuck out, hombre." They said withdrawing from their stance and sitting at a table adjacent to the bar. "I don't want any problems, I just thought I could have a drink and chill out for a minute before taking off on my journey." Nathan said getting up from his chair and heading for the door.

"Don't let the door hit you on the way out asshole." The rude man said as Nathan left the bar. Thank God I got out of there alive, Fuck, what a hellhole, what the fuck am I thinking, I should get the fuck out of this part of the country. I really wanted to try that 747, I can't believe the shit I have to put up with, I'd never have this problem in L.A. I should really go back in there and have it out with those guys, he thought, but then, who was he kidding, they'd beat the shit out of him, but shit, it wasn't fair, especially in this day and age. What the heck was wrong with the world, why was this still happening, wasn't this remedied back in 2040. Even though he didn't want to he got back into his pod and programmed it for L.A., he'd seen enough of the rural countryside for one lifetime. L.A. may be dead but at least he was still alive to enjoy it. He sped along the road to the main freeway to the west, but looked in his rearview mirror and saw another pod approaching rapidly. What the fuck? is that a cop? or are those assholes coming for me? It was the latter. The boys wanted to have some fun. Great...Nathan thought, I should have a gun, but I don't. Maybe I should program my pod to go faster to get to the freeway so I can blend in faster. That was his plan, move faster and get lost. The pod was gaining more on him, his pod couldn't out maneuver the rapidly approaching pod, he was fucked, so fucked, so mutherfucking fucked he kept shouting in his head. Shit, what the fuck am I gonna do, what the fuck am I gonna do, he kept repeating to himself. Call the cops! I could call the cops and avoid this catastrophe or would that make it even worst.

He kept punching in his controls to make the pod move faster, it wasn't. Damn, those guys were on my tail now, shit!

...

Mars Colony 6

Howard Beck

Lars stopped Erika after entering the launch pad entrance. Feeling his shirt pocket, and finding nothing. "Fuck!" Lars screamed at Erika, "I left my passport at home."

"You mean, we're leaving for Mars and you don't have your passport?" Erika rolled her eyes, "How are we suppose to get on board?" "We have to go back." Lars answered feverishy feeling his shirt and pants pockets. "We have to go back home and get it." "That's a hundred miles away." she said a bit flustered.

"I'm sorry, but we can't leave without it." Lars said picking up his bag from the floor, "or I can go back, you can wait for me, it'll only take an hour roundtrip." "Well, it's a good thing we're early." Erika said finding a chair to sit on in Landing Pad 1A waiting room. "Just wait right here, I'll be back shortly." Lars said dashing out the pad front doors to a waiting transport. Erika sat back on the chair and stared out the window at the launch pad. The ship to Mars was steaming in preparation for launch in less then six hours. Shaking her head in amazement, unbelieveable.

How can a educated man be so stupid, oh right, man, answers it. Plus, he takes his bag with him, he could have left it with her, he'll probably forget that on the return trip, she thought. She smiled to herself while taking out her phone to call her mother in Norway. "Hi mom." Erika smiled at her mother.

"Hi honey, did you get there safe?" Erika's mom asked. "Yeah, but Lars forgot his passport." She smiled, "such a dunce." "Honey, don't be so mean, he has a lot to think about." Erika's mom said to her while handing the phone over to Erika's father. "Hi honey, you get there safe?" her father asked.

"Yes daddy, we're safe, just waiting for Lars and we have plenty of time." "Good, well, call us when you're about ready to leave." He said handing the phone back to her mom. "It's still another six hours before we board, so I'll call you way before that." Erika said smiling at her mother. They ended their call. Erika leaned back on the chair and gazed out the window.

...

Man Between Two Worlds

Howard Beck

The atom splitter came to a grinding halt, Ketan's billionth attempt to split the atom into sections failed again. "Shit!" Ketan screamed as the particle system overpowered his atom splitter. "Damn, fucking neutrons!" Ketan struck the console and the screen flickered on his monitor above his head. "Fuck!, so fucking close."

Ketan bounced his hands off the console and his chair slid backwards a few feet from his keyboard. Next time, I'll do it right, he thought, next time I'll get that damn fucking atom to split the way I want. He's been working on this theory for a while and he had it down, really had the right equations and algors in sync with his vision, but still, nothing was working the way he envisioned.

Ketan's biohybrid android assistant Nanor was next to him, "Shall we start the process over again?" he asked. "No, let's take a break and reformulate another instance and work out the bugs before restarting. Some of our data is still usable and we can restart later after I do some module simulations."

Ketan rose from his chair and headed to his room adjacent to the lab. "Just give me a few hours and we'll run it again."

The particle sequencer was offline but still humming from the failed attempt to split the atom in fourths to get the results Ketan was after. If he could break the atom into 4 separate pieces and string them to new atom particles from a previous test could his continual atom bypass restructuring be quantified and his vision of splintering atoms and reconstructing them to become a new form of energy be realised. This last attempt even though it failed was the closest yet to that realisation. He just had to continue to improvise a way to proceed to get his desired results. Nanor, Ketan's assistant rebooted the main systems to get them ready for the next test, until then he'd go over the last test to see what went wrong to give his conclusions to Ketan when he returned.

Five hours passed and Ketan hadn't returned to the lab. Nanor started to wonder where he was. Stopping his analysis and setting the program back to zero, Nanor left the lab and went to check on Ketan. The door to Ketan's room was unlocked and Nanor opened it to find Ketan sitting on the floor in a lotus position in a vegetative state. "Ketan!" Nanor shouted, "Ketan, are you alright?"

Ketan ignored him. Nanor was more direct in his approach to him, nudging him on the shoulder and continuing to shout his name over and over a number of times. Ketan still didn't budge, remained unresponsive.

Nanor flustered, slapped Ketan across his face to wake him up. All that did was knock Ketan to the floor in a supine pose. All of his neurons were activated in Nanor's head, why wasn't he responding to his commands, why wouldn't he wake up, this was so unusual. He didn't know what to do, he sat Ketan upright against his bed frame and found a chair and sat and stared at Ketan for several minutes. He had to do something, this was wrong, Nanor sat there shaking his head, this was all wrong. Anxiety started to overtake Nanor brain, he never felt this before, this was not normal, this was all new, Ketan wouldn't respond, his fears were all ablaze, so unusual to feel these feelings. Frightened and amazed at the same time, Nanor couldn't believe what was happening to him, so strange to feel all these feelings. He was a BHA, yeah, sure, he was organically structured, sure he could be human, but he only considered himself android, not human, and yet all these feelings he was having were, human. Both Nanor and Ketan were sitting staring into space, the room was silent except for the running of life support.

Suddenly, Ketan's eyes fluttered, he focused, he jerked his head to the side and flashed into awareness. "What?" Ketan gasped, "what's happening?"

Nanor relieved to see Ketan functioning again, stopped his own analyticalizing and focused on Ketan. "You're back?" Nanor was happy showing a smile."You're back, what happened?" he asked. Ketan looked at Nanor, "What do you mean?"

"You were unresponsive for several if not longer minutes." Nanor rose from his chair to help assist Ketan from his sitting position. "Let me help you up." Nanor said assisting Ketan to his feet. "I feel weird." Ketan said passing his hand threw his hair. "I feel weird too." Nanor replied.

"Strange, how can, what's going on?" said Ketan looking to Nanor for a knowingly unrequited answer. Nanor reached out his hand and touched Ketans cheek, "I thought I lost you."

Ketan smiled, "no way, I'm not going anywhere, and besides, what can happen to me, I'm almost invincible, like you, just because I have human genes doesn't mean I'm any less droid as you are my love."

Nanor felt reassured, but that too was a strange feeling for him. How was he becoming more human, he didn't have a gene pool in his system, he was completed made in a lab of organic material and electronics.

...