FUEL

By Sean Mulroy

sfgenreThe globule floated swiftly through the air, sometimes like a kite or leaf on the wind but mostly in a controlled, unnerving, clerical manner. Often it came close to the girl’s head, swooping silently around then rising high; once or twice the thing zoomed through her legs in an almost joyful manner. Always it asked questions.

“What are you thinking now?”

The girl hated each question, hated the globule. Like all machines it had no voice, instead using telepathy to communicate.

Hearing each word was similar to having nails scrape along the surface of your brain. The voice heard was always one’s own as well; which made the whole thing feel impersonal, invading. There was something wrong about it.

“Little girl, are you scared? Explain how you feel?”

“Go away,” she said flicking one hand at the globule. “Get out of my head.”

Quickly the globule flew upwards in a powerful motion. The girl watched, trying to look non-interested. The machine soared so high, so fast, and was soon out of sight. Up there it would be able to see well beyond this rough desert landscape and the seemingly endless line of naked humans, all chained, being led to the entrance of the Power-Plant Furnace; which to the girl’s eyes resembled a giant mouth. She envied what must be an impressive view but also didn’t want to see this hopeless predicament, knowing the sight would make her feel no better or worse.

Suddenly, a man directly ahead groaned in despair. The manacle around the girl’s ankle tugged forward. Her attention was grudgingly drawn to those in front.

Some in the chain-gang were young, others elderly, each were withered and suffered from malnutrition; all had been chosen. The man who groaned was very old and had no eyes. She wondered if he had blinded himself and using logic decided he must have. Ignoring such surroundings as these, the girl focused again on each slow step upon hot, yellow sand — which was trance-inducing; feeling a million boiling granules stick and sear into her bare feet, every movement calming, knowing for certain pain would come. Just about to fall into the almost meditative mind-frame of the trudge, she heard another question.

“With detail describe what you’re thinking? Do so and this probing session will end, there’ll be no more questions.”

The globule was back. It pulsed a light colour and was twice as big as before.

“Do you promise?” she asked.

The globule zoomed around randomly, no one else paid any attention and the machine gave no heed to them.

“Perhaps,” it answered.

“Okay then,” said the girl. “I’m not thinking about anything specific. Only that those fiery fingers of sunlight burn, scorch and sting every inch of my skin with their unwanted touch. I constantly fantasise about tasting water in my mouth. Every now and then the image of smashing you between my hands occurs, but I shake it off knowing it’ll never happen — I glean no joy from those thoughts anyway.”

“You’re not thinking about your own deactivation?”

The girl ground her yellow teeth, she stopped immediately since it made them hurt more than usual. “Go away! You said you’d leave me alone if I told!”

The globule sped up and whizzed around the girl so fast it became a blur then stopped right in front of her nose. She did not cease walking though, and the machine remained about four inches before her face, floating dead still in humid air.

“Humans fear death. Don’t they?”

“I don’t know, some do I guess. I’ve noticed others welcome oblivion so much they’ll beg for it and refuse rations.”

“Every human is different then? Is that what you mean?”

“Go away,” repeated the girl. “No matter how hard you try you’ll never understand. One day machines won’t need humans anymore and soon after there will be none left. This probing, your constant questioning, will seem rather pointless then.”

“Maybe. However, for now the way you deal with trauma is vital to understand. Especially when you know it’s coming and the probable effects that may have on our fuel quality.” The globule rose high and stopped far above her head. “This session has been productive; you may have inadvertently helped to strengthen protocol and increase quota, conceivably even improve results. Every little bit of information counts for getting closer and closer to a world with a more stable energy-source.”

“Not yet, though,” replied the girl. She regretted acknowledging the globule and showing just that little bit of hope.

“No, not yet,” answered the globule as it flew away across an endless line of humans. Barely audibly it added. “But soon, quite soon.”

Looking up, the girl was pleased she had been annoyed by the globule, for she now stood before the entrance; that giant gaping mouth. She hadn’t had to think about arriving here and now was much too late to do so. The old man with no eyes got strapped onto the conveyor-belt and was taken silently, efficiently, inside the Power-Plant Furnace. In there he’d be washed in a chemical bath to remove impurities, his body broken then pulverised and remade as a heavy powder. Finally the old man’s dust would be blown into the Furnace and his last remains scattered through the turbine inside, burning while airborne, till nothing was left. This would manifest pressurized-steam for collection and storage in generators thereby creating electricity.

The girl shook her head, trying to dislodge those terrible thoughts inside; it didn’t work. A horrible looking machine with countless arms and many eyes approached her and prepared the conveyor for the upcoming load.

Reluctantly, the girl took a step forward. She was next in line.

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About The Author

Sean Mulroy

Sean Mulroy lives in Newcastle. His previous fiction has appeared in Every Day Fiction among other venues. This is his third story in AntipodeanSF.

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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.

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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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Coming In Issue 239

Alea Iacta Est
by Chris Cole

Critters
by Kevin J. Phyland

Gathering At The Bubble
by Robert W. Caldwell

History Comes Alive
by Ken Schweda

Leading The Swan
by Hari Navarro

Stupid Robot
by Col Hellmuth

The Centaur
by Salvatore Difalco

The Circus Act
by Ferne Merrylees

Touch
by Robert David

War On Terror Just Blows Me Away
by Wes Parish

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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,

And is a theatre reviewer for 2SER FM in Sydney.

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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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david whitaker 200David Whitaker is originally from the UK though has travelled around a bit and now resides in India. He has a degree in Journalism, however decided that as he’s always preferred making things up it should ultimately become a resource rather than a profession.

His stories, covering everything from sci-fi to philosophy, have been published across the globe and links to each can be found at <wordsbydavid.com>

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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 (available now).

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

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marg essex 200Margaret lives the good life on a small piece of rural New South Wales Australia, with an amazing man, a couple of pets, and several rambunctious wombats.

She feels so lucky to be a part of the AntiSF team.

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timonthy gwyn 100Timothy Gwyn is a professional pilot in Canada, where he flies to remote communities. During a lull in his flying career, he was a radio announcer for three years, and he is also an author.

In addition to short stories at AntipodeanSF and NewMyths.com, his SF novel is available internationally in print and ebook formats. "Avians" draws on his love of alternative aviation to tell the tale of a girl who runs away from home to join a cadre of glider pilots on a world without metal or fossil fuels.

On Twitter, he is @timothygwyn, and his blogs are at <timothygwyn.com>.

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SF News

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Vale Tony Plank

AntiSF contributor Tony Plank was a computer programmer, web designer, SF writer, active member of the Australian SF community and an all-round good guy.

He passed away peacefully on 21 March, 2018. A kind, fun-loving man, he contributed a lot to the Aus SF scene and will be sadly missed.

(Edwina Harvey).

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Congratulations Edwina Harvey

Edwina Harvey, a contributor to AntipodeanSF since the very first issue, is a worthy recipient of this year’s A. Bertram Chandler Award.  She has been an active member of Australian science-fiction fandom: writing, publishing and with her amazing artwork for 40 years.

Read more information about Ed's Award here at the ASFF.

Ishmael A Soledad Publishes "Hawking Radiation"

Ishmael A Soledad, a recent AntiSF contributor (and more to come in our future pages) has recently published a collection of his SF short stories. Love, telepathy, suicidal androids, purple dragons, and machine-gun-toting rabbits. More information here.

Dimension6 Issue 13 - Mark Webb

AntipodeanSF is an affiliate site for Dimension6 from Coeur De Lion Publishing, the best in Australian Speculative Fiction, free every April, July, and October. In the latest edition (#13), long term AntiSF contributor Mark Webb has a novella length story, “The Reclaimers”, about Ulanda, who travels the edge of civilisation, cleansing border towns of a deadly residue that lingers from the magical weapons of mass destruction that ended the war. It’s the only job still allowed for the paranormally-inclined and life is adequate, until an old girlfriend appears with a questing opportunity that Ulanda knows she absolutely should refuse… Dimension6 can be found free on the AntiSF website here in both mobi and epub formats.

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Aussie Awards News

2018 Norma K Hemming Finalists Announcement
The Australian Science Fiction Foundation (ASFF) is delighted to announce the 2018 shortlists for the Norma K Hemming Award, which covers works published in 2016-2017. Finalist list is here.

The winners of the 2018 Norma K Hemming Award will be announced at a ceremony taking place on the evening of Friday 8 June, 2018, at Continuum in Melbourne, with citations and a monetary prize being presented.

 For more up-to-date Aussie SF info join the ASFF: <asff.org.au>

 

Upcoming Aussie Cons

Continuum XIV: Conjugation. Melbourne’s SF Convention. 8th – 11th June, 2018. More information: <http://www.continuum.org.au/>.

Conflux 14 - The Unconventional Hero — Vibe Hotel, 1 Rogan Street, Canberra Airport ACT 2609. 29/09/2018 - 01/10/2018. More Information: <https//conflux.org.au>

Nullus Anxietas VII: The Australian Discworld Convention – will be held in Melbourne on April 12-14, 2019, and is themed on Going Postal. More information: <https://ausdwcon.org/>

For more up-to-date Aussie SF info join the ASFF: <asff.org.au>

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

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