The distress beacon gave off a monotonous, patterned beeping calling to any ships in the quadrant that could detect the standard emergency frequencies. That what what had summoned the salvagers. The nimble salvage ship skimmed through the asteroid field, always keeping an eye to their radar displays to track the beacon. It was a stationary array, the sort of beacon that was automatically deployed by a disabled ship. Those were hard to fake and couldn’t be set off in-atmosphere, so they felt fairly confident that they wouldn’t run into pirates. Zooming around one particularly large asteroid, the crew found themselves asking one question as they looked at the monitors and out the various ports. How was the signal being given off by an entire planet?
The man stood on the bridge with the sunrise behind him. This day was a long time coming, this day when he would leave everything he had ever known. Slowly, he raised his right hand and gazed at the miniature portrait he held with gentle fingers. To never see her again. It would be a tragedy, but it was no longer a tragedy he could avert. He tucked the small painting into his jacket and let his gaze fall to the still waters below him. No one would know him, could know him. Not if this plan was to succeed. But there would be peace and he would have his works. He produced a small vial and looked it over, almost dispassionately. Then he uncorked it and drank the yellow fluid. It tasted vile and metallic, and burned its way down his throats until it settled in his gut like so much lead. But it was lead no longer. It was gold and life and the future. Tucking the vial back into his pocket, the Count of St Germaine turned and strode down the street out of one life and into another
The child would have powers. She had promised herself that when he had been born. This child would have powers one way or another. No matter what it took, she would not let her son be one of the few Normals of Scuttle Bay. Even if she was, even if her husband was. The question was how. It wasn’t in his blood, that much was clear. That left magic and science as her options. From the day he was born, she started in with everything she had. Vitamibe, spellwork, offerings left for Faeries and gods alike. None of it worked. Finally, she took her infant son to the coast. A pirate wreck lay deep under the water still and she could just barely see the shadow there. Holding the child by the ankle, she held him in the water. He would have powers. He would be a hero. He would make it in this place. Of that, she was convinced. The boy stopped moving. She pulled him out, a mad gleam in her eye. What great powers would he manifest? But his eyes were glassy and dull and he didn’t move
“Oh for the love of-! I said coffee, you damned bucket of bolts!”
Madison kicked the console and it emitted a series of irate beeps. Then, she turned, looking down at Nia.
“Are…are you the oracle?”
Chuckling, she held out the mug.
“Oracle, is it? I don’t suppose you like chocolate milk, do you? Here.” She pressed the cool mug into Nia’s hands and strode over to another panel covered in switches, levers, and numerical displays. “And why would you be looking for an Oracle up here?”
The girl fidgeted uncertainly and her gaze dropped to the floor.
“The villagers said…”
“The villagers don’t understand what I’ve got. It’s nothing more than old tech, from before. Take this console for example. It’s a drink machine when it damn well feels like working. That one? It plays music. The rest is the power source. Now tell me, why were you looking for an Oracle?”
Nia reached into her bag and pulled out the precious books with their figures and diagrams.
“To help with these?”
Madison’s eyes went huge and she reached a hand out for them.
“Welladay, if this is what you need…then you’re in the right place. And you just landed yourself an apprenticeship.”
That’s the thing with living in the Scuttle Bay area. It seems like half of the people in the city have a mask tucked in a pocket and some kind of super powers. It could come from the nuclear tests they did just up river back in the 40s. It could come from the modern biotech firms dotting the city. It could also come from the meteor storm that struck about ten years back. I’ve even heard a few people say it’s an old curse or something else to do with the pirates the bay is named for. But honestly, it doesn’t matter. It’s enough to know that half the people in the city have powers and other lives. And the biggest hero is none other than Atomic Ace. He’s pretty much what you’d expect, really. Over 6-foot, sculpted like a god and hung like a horse based on the way the leather clings. Bright blue eyes, like a cloudless day, framed by strong, dark brows and a roman nose. His hair is black as night and cut in a way that screams rugged and manly, which is honestly impressive for a guy who wears his underwear on the outside. Who am I? Folks around here call me Rabbit. I’m what you’d call a speedster. It cropped up when I was about 14, and my folks are both normals so it was something of a surprise. I tried to live as normally as I could, blend in and all that. I was about 17 when I first encountered Atomic Ace. And I thought I was going to die
Time is not linear. It never has been. Time is a cycle of births and deaths on the cosmic and infinitesimal scales at the same time. Time is the son killing the father only to be killed in his turn by his own son. So why should we hold faith with a future unpromised? The future is nothing more than the past in sheep’s clothing. We are monkeys who have forgotten how to climb, lizards who forgot to lay their eggs, cells that came together to be better but simply became more. Each person is a cell in the Petri dish of earth, scooting along through the cosmic agar. We move and leave behind lines that we pretend are called time.
They always talk about what happens when the stars align, or when the planets align. What no one ever worries about is when the black holes align. When the sky is torn asunder and matter is drawn into that endless vacuum. It’s the most dangerous time, a time when space flight is unwise. Whole solar systems would vanish as they strayed into the path of those anomalies. And I stood on the bridge of my explorer class scout vessel, calculating the path to our survival. We had one shot, one looping trajectory around that inexorable line. Space is three-dimensions after all. Setting down the stylus, I turned to the helm.“5 second bursts on engines 4 and 7, followed by a 10 second burst on retros 6 and 8.”
We began to move forward, moving fast.
“Now the sling shot. 5 seconds on engine 3 and 4 and retros 6 and 8.”
We shifted directions nearly immediately but we could all still feel that pull.
“3 degree shift of retro burn, sustained.”
And then, we popped clear. We were free. We would live to report this horror