Flash Ships Ltd

By Neil A. Hogan

sfgenreSpace twisted, shuddered, then ripped apart as Flash Ships Ltd.’s experimental craft tore back into reality. The triangular ship shot forward, momentum from its previous suborbital position above Earth throwing it further into the Kuiper Belt.

Inside, Captain Bruce Malper saved the target drone’s recording of their arrival, unhooked his belt and checked the oxygen levels. “AI. Record. 11:47am AEST. Saturday 12th April 2036. The first human test of the interplanetary flash drive is a success.” He straightened carefully in the confined space, brushing off cables that had gathered near him, and checked stats. “Pluto’s orbit confirmed. 7.5 billion kilometres in 7 seconds.”

“Incoming!” yelled a muffled voice from his helmet.

Immediately he was slammed back into his seat as the craft shot EM pulses from his corner. A bright burst of plasma blasted past the front metal glass, almost blinding him. “Commander Wei. What the hell was that?” 

His chunky fingers struggling with the hybridised old and new technology, Malper pressed a spring-loaded button on the outside of his helmet to activate the quantum-entangled mind-view signal. External cameras broadcast an image into his mind in x- and gamma-rays, but the object it showed was almost too impossible to believe. “I don’t believe it.”

He felt Wei link and add more data. A new image flowered open in his visual cortex with an analysis of the energy blast. Wei’s alpha waves were like a cool breeze across his brain, their interaction in this mental space calming him quickly. 

“Particle stream?” began Wei’s thoughts. “The kind that a…”

“…that a compressed mass like a black hole emits,” finished Malper. “Yes.”

“Ten Earths in a cricket ball.” Wei turned the mass around in their heads. “The magnetic field is strengthening. It’s going to fire again. Two thousand kilometres away means three seconds to impact.”

Malper gripped his chair as the ship’s EM pulses changed their course again, the plasma blast going wider. “You know, I was worried we’d materialise inside Pluto. This is a lot worse. Exiting.”

His tiny control station filled his vision again as the image of the compressed mass faded away. “Any suggestions?”

“Return to Earth.”

Malper turned in his seat and peered around the central cylindrical flash engine, hoping to catch her expression. He could just make out Wei’s back at the end of the tiny corridor that branched off to the left. “Wei. Seriously? It’s taken three years to get this far.”

“If the next particle stream hits, none of this will matter.” Her voice had a slight edge. “Instant vaporisation.”

 They couldn’t end the mission this quickly. Then he remembered, she wasn’t an astrophysicist. “Look. We must have arrived above it. If it’s like a black hole, well, they only stream at the poles. Set an EM course at 90 degrees and see if that works. Just make sure we don’t get caught in its gravity well.”

“Yes, sir.”

Malper sighed, then jumped as a large metal tail snaked around from the right corridor and gripped the handhold next to him. “Shinky! I’m already jumpy. Could you have knocked first?”

“So, you are alive!” Two of her exoarms gripped the bulkhead and slowly pulled the rest of her human body into the confined space. “I’ve been trying to contact you guys for hours.”

“Hours?”

“Joking. A few minutes, though. My corner of the ship is closer to the black hole, so time is slower. The hybrid system couldn’t connect.”

Malper rubbed his face. “That’s all we need. Will it affect the flash drive?”

“I don’t think so. Let’s just get out of the area.”

“Flash engine?” asked Wei.

“EM drive,” said Malper. “Set course for Eris, or Arrokoth. Anywhere.”

They felt the EM pulses increase and held tighter.

Shinky tapped Malper’s control panel. “Found this. That thing out there is not a natural mass. Human-made. Well, alien-made?”

“What?” Wei bounced out of her chair and launched herself like a diver down the tight corridor. Malper frowned at this, remembering his bulk, and how the only exit he had was up. “Aren’t you supposed to be driving?”

“I engaged the autopilot.”

Wei reached past Shinky and zoomed the image further. “So, the plasma bursts are deliberate. It detected something large and high speed, then fired.”

Shinky pointed with an exoarm at the edge of the image. “There’s even a bloody force field around it.” She tapped the screen with a claw, and it showed another graph. “And a signal being broadcast. It might be networked to something, or somethings.”

“I don’t like the look of this,” said Malper. “What if there are more of these out there?”

“I know, right?” said Shinky. “They could be here to stop us from leaving. Imagine millions of these things hiding in the outer Solar System. If the deep pockets hear about this, that’s it for interstellar travel, and my career. I’d be just another disabled body again.”

“Well, we’re not going to let that happen,” said Malper. Then he saw that Shinky had started looking alarmed at her heads-up display. “What?”

“Black hole thingy? I think it’s started chasing us.”

“No. No. No,” said Malper, seeing the projected trajectory on his panel. He groaned. “Goddamnit! Commander Wei. You’re right. Turn off the EM pulses, and the autopilot. Shinky, prep the flash engine. AI. Abort all testing programs.”

“Yes, sir.” Wei quickly dived back to her station.

“On it.” Shinky’s exoattachments scuttled her back down her corridor.

Malper shot out a drone to record their departure for the shareholders, then activated the flash drive. As it powered up, he deleted every record of the mass. The last thing he wanted was the company to think the Solar System was under lockdown.

Flash engine microwaves poured through the ship, increasing its frequency to 300,000 cycles per second. Outside, reality shattered, and the triangular shadow disappeared, just as a bolt of magnetic plasma blasted through now empty space. 

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About the Author

Neil A. Hogan

neil a hogan 2020Neil A. Hogan has been writing space fiction on and off since the '80s.

His next novel, The Robots of Atlantis, is due out in May 2021.

Find out more at <https://www.StellarFlash.com>.

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AntiSF's Production Crew

nuke conflux 2017 200Ion Newcombe is the editor and publisher of AntipodeanSF, Australia’s longest running online speculative fiction magazine, regularly issued since January 1998, and conceived back around November 2007. He has been a zealous reader and occasional writer of SF since his childhood in the 1960s, and even sold a few stories here and there back in the '90s.

“Nuke”, who it turns out loves editing more than writing, lives in the New South Wales North Coast holiday destination of Nambucca Heads, where he is self-employed in IT training, computer support, desktop publishing, editing, writing, and website implementation. He is also the resident tech-head, skeptic, and board member of community radio station 2NVR, where he produces a number of shows including The AntipodeanSF Radio Show.

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mark web 200Mark Webb's midlife crisis came in the form of attempting to write speculative fiction at a very slow pace. His wife maintains this is a good outcome considering the more expensive and cliched alternatives. Evidence of Mark's attempts to procrastinate in his writing, including general musings and reviews of books he has been reading, can be found at www.markwebb.name.

One of Mark’s very best forms of writing procrastination is to produce the eBook series for AntipodeanSF, which he has been doing since issue 175.

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In The Next Issue...

Coming In Issue 272

Buchstabensuppe
By Tony Owens

Content
By Ashley Cracknell

Drowning
By Chris Karageorge

Fodd Prints
By AE Reiff

For More Options Press 9
By Myna Chang

Hotel de Mort
By Emma Louise Gill

The Hot Equations
By Simon Petrie

The Smeg
By Harris Tobias

The Walls Have Tongues
By S. A. Mckenzie

Tribunal on the Misuse of Swords and Knives
By Len Baglow

AntipodeanSF April 2021

ISSUE 271

Speculative Fiction
Downside-Up
ISSN 1442-0686

Online Since Feb 1998

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AntiSF's Narration Team

sarah pratt 200Sarah Pratt is an avid fiction writer and a Marketing Consultant.

She is currently working on her first novel but loves diving into short stories to bring a little lightness, intrigue or humour to the day.

Her work has appeared in Sponge Magazine and The Commuting Book.

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garry dean narratorGarry Dean lives on the Mid Coast of New South Wales Australia, and has been a fan of SF for most of his natural life. Being vision impaired, he makes good use of voice recognition and text to speech in order to write. Many of his stories have appeared in AntipodeanSF over the years, and his love of all things audio led him to join the narration team in 2017.

You can read examples of Garry's fiction on his website <https://garrydean.wordpress.com>

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mark english 100Mark is an astrophysicist and space scientist who worked on the Cassini/Huygens mission to Saturn. Following this he worked in computer consultancy, engineering, and high energy research (with a stint at the JET Fusion Torus).

All this science hasn't damped his love of fantasy and science fiction. It has, however, ruined his enjoyment of rainbows, colourful flames on romantic log fires, and rings around the moon. He has previously been published in Stupefying Stories Showcase, Everyday Fiction, Escape Pod, Perihelion and also on AntipodeanSF where he is part of the narration team.

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carolyn eccles 100

Carolyn's work spans devising, performance, theatre-in-education and a collaborative visual art practice.

She tours children's works to schools nationally with School Performance Tours, is a member of the Bathurst physical theatre ensemble Lingua Franca and one half of darkroom — a visual arts practice with videographer Sean O'Keeffe.

(Photo by Jeremy Belinfante) 

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lauriebell 2 200Laurie Bell lives in Melbourne, Australia. She was that girl you found with her nose always buried in a book. She has been writing ever since she was a little girl and first picked up a pen. From books to short stories, radio plays to snippets of ideas and reading them aloud to anyone who will listen.

She is the author of The Butterfly Stone and The Tiger's Eye (YA/Fantasy) White Fire (Sci-Fi) and The Good, the Bad and the Undecided (a unique collection of short stories set during the events of White Fire/Sci-Fi). 

You can read more of her work on her blog <www.solothefirst.wordpress.com> Look for her on Facebook <www.facebook.com/WriterLaurieBell/> or Twitter: <@LaurienotLori>

Rambles, writing and amusing musings

Smile! laugh out loud! enjoy the following

<www.solothefirst.wordpress.com>

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pixie willo 100Pixie is a voice actor, cabaret performer & slam poet From the Blue Mountains in NSW.

She enjoys writing short fiction, plays for radio and stage as well as her own brand of weird poetry.

She hosts the 'Off-Beet Poetry Slam' held bi-monthly in Katoomba.

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geraldine borella 200Geraldine Borella writes adult short stories and stories for children and has been published in anthologies for both. In 2018, one of her children’s short stories placed second in The Buzz Words Short Story Prize and she won an ASA Emerging Writer’s Mentorship. She currently works part-time as a hospital pharmacist and as an online creative writing tutor.

She’s fascinated by stories that expand upon today’s technology, addressing the moral and ethical issues that might arise. Equally, she enjoys the creative freedom that writing for children allows. Right now, she’s writing a young adult novel, reworking a middle grade novel and writing adult short stories when inspiration strikes. She lives with her husband, Tim, in Yungaburra, Far North Queensland and dreams of one day taking a European gap year.

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ed erringtonAlthough a writer of the baby boom persuasion, Ed has not boomed for quite a while.

He lives with his wife plus a menagerie of non-domesticated — native Australian animals intropical North Queensland.

His writing within the ‘real’ science fiction context of COVID-19 is intermingled by long night sky vigils — searching for pesky aliens intent on maintaining their social distance to the nth degree.

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alistair lloyd 200Alistair Lloyd is a Melbourne based writer and narrator who has been consuming good quality science fiction and fantasy most of his life.

You may find him on Twitter as <@mr_al> and online at <alistairlloyd.com>.

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tim borellaTim Borella has never lost his childhood passion for SF and writing in general and has been lucky enough to have worked most of his life as a pilot — in other words, he’s never properly grown up.

He lives in country Far North Queensland, has won awards for songwriting, and has had various other writing achievements, the most recent being an honourable mention in the 2018 international Literary Taxidermy Short Story Competition.

He also has bachelor degrees in science and teaching, and has completed a couple of as-yet unpublished SF novels. He’d dearly love to spend more time writing, but will have to continue juggling for another couple of years until the kids have fully left the nest.

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The AntipodeanSF Radio Show

AntiSF Radio Show

antipod-show-50The AntipodeanSF Radio Show delivers audio from the pages of this magazine.

The weekly program features the stories from recently published issues, usually narrated by the authors themselves.

Listen to the latest episode now:

The AntipodeanSF Radio Show is also broadcast on community radio, 2NVR, 105.9FM every Saturday evening at 8:30pm.

You can find every broadcast episode online here: http://antisf.libsyn.com 

SF Quote

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The Contributors

Chad has a B.S. in Biochemistry from California State University Dominguez Hills and an Associates degree in Culinary Arts from Le Cordon Bleu, Pasadena.

His fiction has been published in Larks Fiction Magazine, 365 Tomorrows, Farther Stars Than These and Verdad among others.

He has made a few short films the most recent of which was an official selection of Dances with Films.

Link to Chad's Vimeo: <https://vimeo.com/cbcinema>.

nick petrou 200Nick works as a freelance writer out of Perth, Western Australia, where he likes to read unsettling fiction and complain about the sun.

His short fiction is forthcoming in two anthologies by Black Hare Press.

You can find out everything there is to know about him (and more) at <nspetrou.com>.

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callan j mulligan 200Callan J. Mulligan was born in Melbourne, Australia, in 1988.

Writing poems and fiction from a young age, his imagination took him through several creative careers including Marketing, Music, and Film & Television.

At the age of 29 he wrote his first published work of fiction, a novella titled ‘A Mind of His Own’. The debut work received critical acclaim and scored amazon's Top 100 for thriller and suspense.

Callan predominantly writes science fiction, and his work often contains existential and philosophical themes. He has a deep, personal, love of science, especially astronomy and cosmology.

Callan lives with his wife on the Queensland Gold Coast and spends his time playing more video games than should be considered healthy, and not reading nearly as much as an author should.

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louis evans 200Louis Evans is a sci-fi writer living in Brooklyn with his partner and two cats named after fictional European detectives, Hercule Poirot and Lord Peter Wimsey.

His fiction has appeared in Analog SF&F, Interzone, GigaNotoSaurus and more.

He would never get involved in a pyramid scheme, which is why you can have complete confidence that THIS business opportunity is the! real! deal! Let's do lunch . . .

His website is evanslouis.com and he tweets @louisevanswrite

Kaoru Sakasaki 200Kaoru Sakasaki lives with his family in Yokohama, south of Tokyo.

He writes late at night after putting his children to bed.

In 2020, he won the Judges’ Special Prize in the first Kaguya SF Contest organized by Virtual Gorilla Plus.

neil a hogan 2020Neil A. Hogan has been writing space fiction on and off since the '80s.

His next novel, The Robots of Atlantis, is due out in May 2021.

Find out more at <https://www.StellarFlash.com>.

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João VenturaJoão Ventura writes short fiction, which has appeared in several websites (AntipodeanSF and Bewildering Stories among them), and also in printed form: Somnium, in Brazil; Dragão Quântico, Hyperdrivezine, Phantastes (Portuguese fanzines); Universe Pathways (in both the English and the Greek versions).

He had short stories in several Portuguese and Brazilian antologies: A Sombra sobre Lisboa (2006), VaporPunk (2010), Antologia de Ficção Científica Fantasporto (2012), Lisboa no ano 2000 (2013), Lisboa Oculta - Guia Turístico (2018), O resto é paisagem (2018), Almanaque SteamPunk (2019), Winepunk (2019), Regiana Magna (2020).

In 2018, a collection of his short stories (in Portuguese) came to light, with the title Tudo Isto Existe.

He likes reading, writing (surprise!), has a blog and is a university professor (now retired).

He is married, with two children and he lives in Lisbon.

Those who read Portuguese can have a glance at some of his stuff in Das palavras o espaço.

Samuel Gachon is a student in creative writing at QUT, with a minor in media and entertainment.

He lives in Brisbane, and has published a few stories on Wattpad and Deviantart.

Links:WordPress: <https://wordpress.com/pages/samuelgachon.wordpress.com>.

Wattpad: <https://www.wattpad.com/user/SamuelGachon>.

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james patrik 200An emerging writer, James Patrik enjoys exploring the existential themes.

A lifelong science fiction fan, he has a particular fondness for Japanese culture—especially Tokusatsu.

James is also passionate about psychology and is currently studying a Bachelor of Psychological Science.

You can read more of his work at: <www.jamespatrik.com>.

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Toshiya Kamei holds an MFA in Literary Translation from the University of Arkansas.

His translations have appeared in venues such as Clarkesworld, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, and World Literature Today.

steven fritz 200Steven Fritz graduated from the University of Maryland, became a Naval Aviator and flew helicopters and maritime patrol aircraft in the US Navy.

After leaving active duty, he earned a Ph.D. in Radiation Biophysics at the University of Kansas and spent several years as a medical school faculty member and senior administrator.

After university he managed a seed stage venture fund and did a stint as an avionics entrepreneur. He’s been infatuated with science fiction since his youth and has been writing SF full time for three years. You can follow Steven on his website at <InigoPress.com> or on Twitter at @StevenLFritz1.

brian-biswasBrian has published over sixty short stories in the United States as well as internationally.

His short story "A Betrayal" was nominated for a Pushcart Prize and anthologized in The Irreal Reader.

A collection, A Betrayal and Other Stories, was published by Rogue Star Press in 2018, and his novel, The Astronomer, will be published by Whiskey Tit Press later this year.

Brian is listed in the International Writers and Authors Who's Who, Marquis Who's Who, and the Internet Speculative Fiction Database.

You can read more of Brian's work at his website: <www.brianbiswas.com>.

Or follow him on Twitter: @brianbiswas

"Mercury" is an extract from Brian's upcoming novel The Astronomer.

lauriebell 2 200Laurie Bell lives in Melbourne, Australia. She was that girl you found with her nose always buried in a book. She has been writing ever since she was a little girl and first picked up a pen. From books to short stories, radio plays to snippets of ideas and reading them aloud to anyone who will listen.

She is the author of The Butterfly Stone and The Tiger's Eye (YA/Fantasy) White Fire (Sci-Fi) and The Good, the Bad and the Undecided (a unique collection of short stories set during the events of White Fire/Sci-Fi). 

You can read more of her work on her blog <www.solothefirst.wordpress.com> Look for her on Facebook <www.facebook.com/WriterLaurieBell/> or Twitter: <@LaurienotLori>

Rambles, writing and amusing musings

Smile! laugh out loud! enjoy the following

<www.solothefirst.wordpress.com>

aus25grn

ed-harveyPretty much a life-long fan of speculative fiction, Edwina Harvey is a writer, editor, silk painter and ceramic artist.

Her short stories and articles have appeared in a variety of publications including Aurealis, Antipodean SF, Grass Roots, Harbinger, Magpies, Strange Pleasures #3 and Worlds Next Door.

She has had three books, The Whale’s Tale, The Back of the Back of Beyond, and An Eclectic Collection of Stuff and Things and a novelette, Never Forget, published through Peggy Bright Books. <www.peggybrightbooks.com>.

 Edwina received her editing qualifications in 2012 and now works as a freelance editor, specialising in speculative fiction.

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Harris Tobias lives and writes in Charlottesville, Virginia. He is the author of two novels: The Greer Agency & A Felony of Birds. He has written dozens of short stories many of which are available on line at <quantummuse.com>. He is the author of many children’s books including At The Robot ZooMoonRivet Saves His Skin and An Alphabet Book of Bugs available in print from

CreateSpace and as ebooks for Nook & Kindle. You can find links to his writings here: <harristobias-fiction.blogspot.com>

kevinjphyland 200Old enough to just remember the first manned Moon landing, Kevin was so impressed he made science his life.

Retired now from teaching he amuses himself by reading, writing, following his love of weather and correcting people on the internet.

He’s been writing since his teens and hopes he will one day get it right.

He can be found on twitter @KevinPhyland where he goes by the handle of CaptainZero and his work is around the place if you search using google or use the antisf.com.au archive.

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