The Drink: Friday Flash Fiction Post

Scarf

I originally wrote this story at the start of February, 2014! I know, right? I searched the blog and cannot find where I posted it, if I did. Anyway, I was searching for the recipe I have in the story, a specialty bar drink that I created for a Chuck Wendig prompt. So I thought it would be cool that I make the drink an actual recipe card to hand out at my Phoenix ComiCon appearance in May. www.PhoenixComiCon.com. I’m not sure the title fits. What do you think? What would be a better title?

The Drink

Paula Vance held up the heavily embroidered scarf with intricate metallic blue and silver swirls and stars. “Look at this, Rob! I’ve never seen anything like it.”

He stepped to his wife. “Beautiful.”

The stall keeper sensed a sale to the tourists. “I know the artist. She does fantastic work but as you can imagine, it takes a long time to hand embroider. I don’t get many like that.”

“We’re on our 10th anniversary trip,” Paula shared with the stall keeper. “We heard about the Gulliver Station BioDome and since it was on the way to Pica, we decided to stop here. I’m glad we did.” She tried on the scarf and looked at herself in the mirror standing on the counter. “I have to have it.”

Rob laughed. “Why not? It’s our anniversary after all.” He handed the stall keeper his ID.

“Shall I wrap it for you, Miss?”

Paula took a couple of steps backward to get a different perspective in the mirror. “No, I think…”

She shrieked as she was struck by a speeding methane breather transport pod. Paula slid over the bubble protecting the alien and rolled off of the back onto the floor.

“Paula!” Rob shouted.

The pod stopped. The stall keeper called Station Security. Passersby gathered around the fallen woman and the transport. In a few minutes, Station Security Officer, Helene Guzman, arrived on the scene.

“Are you alright, Ma’am?” Officer Guzman took a swift glance at the transport. There was no smell of methane so the bubble wasn’t cracked. The exterior speaker hissed and sputtered. She read the display.

“Fright. Female. Broken!”

Guzman sighed. She hated dealing with the V’Heeme. It was hard to figure out what their messages meant. Was it scared and broken or was it asking about the woman?

Rob helped his wife to her feet. “I think she’s fine.” He dusted off her dress.

“Stay right there, the medics are coming.” Guzman turned to the transport’s speaker. “May I ask your name, Honored V’Heeme?”

The screen printed, “Zmugn.”

“Honored Zmugn, are you injured?” She tapped her pocket pad with the V’Heeme’s name and the number of the transport pod. The message went straight to Security.

“No. Human?”

“I will inquire, Honored Zmugn.” She turned to the couple. “May I ask your names?”

Paula straightened the scarf, then her hair. “I’m Paula Vance, this is my husband Ron. We were just buying this scarf when the pod hit me.” She straightened her dress. “I never expected to see a Methane breather.” They peered into the bubble.

“So you didn’t see the pod travelling along the market aisle?”

Paula glanced around her, the crowd, smaller now that there was no apparent injury, hung onto every word. “Well, I stepped back a bit, to see the scarf in the mirror.”

“That’s true, Officer,” the stall keeper called out. “She was just admirin’ the scarf.”

Guzman nodded. This was an accident but with the V’Heeme involved it could turn ugly. “I can do a couple of things here. I can take both of you and the V’Heeme to the office where everyone can file complaints.

“Or, I can call it no harm, no foul, since no one is injured and you can go about your business.”

“Oh, no,” Ron said in a hurry. “We were just about to go to dinner.”

Guzman nodded. “Let me ask the V’Heeme.”

“Honored Zmugn, do you wish to go about your business or come to Station Security to file a complaint?”

The speaker hissed and crackled and the screen finally printed, “No. Business now.”

“Thank you for your courtesy, Honored Zmugn.” Guzman tapped the answer into her pad. She turned to the couple.

“Your lucky day, the V’Heeme is eager to get on about his business, too.”

They watched the pod speed away. “It goes kind of fast, doesn’t it?” Rob said as he watched it take the corner.

Guzman held out her pad. “Could you sign at the bottom of the screen, please? To confirm you are not filing a complaint.”

Paula reached out and pressed her thumb to the screen.  When the medics arrived, Officer Guzman stayed so she could complete her report. It only took a moment for them to do a scan and pronounce Paula fit. She thumb-printed her release on their pad.

“Have a good evening.” Guzman tucked her pad into her pocket.

“Wait,” Rob said. “Can you recommend a good place to eat? Some place you would go to have dinner?”

Guzman stopped. “Are you looking for fancy or for good local food?”

“We can get fancy food on the ship. Local food,” Rob said.

“Go to the Eastenders on this Level. Best Irish stew on the station.”

They thanked her and wound their way through the market to the maglev. It took them to the other end of the market. The Eastender’s was in full swing but they found seats at the bar. The stew and fresh bread was delivered promptly and they ate with gusto. “We should have an anniversary drink,” Paula said.

“Good idea,” Rob said. “Jake,” he called to the bartender. “Do you have a signature drink for the Eastenders?”

Jake, a long time bartender on the station, scratched his head. “No. None on Gulliver Station, as far as I know.”

“Good.” Rob rubbed his hands together. “Is there a particular favorite drink?”

Jake grinned. “That would be whisky. It’s made right here.”

The two men put their heads together. In a few minutes, the three of them had a squat glass filled with ice cubes and a light chocolate colored drink. “Cheers,” Rob toasted. They each tasted.

“What’s in it?” Paula asked.

“One and a half shots of whisky, half a shot of chocolate liquor, half a shot of Irish cream whisky, and a shot of coffee. We’ve decided to call it The Gulliver.”

“It tastes like dessert!” She sipped again. “Thank you, Jake.” She raised her glass. “To Gulliver Station.”

“To Gulliver Station,” they toasted.

The End

1000 Words

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Spring is Coming: Flash Fiction Friday Post

Lake Thaw, Sacandaga Lake, Fulton County, NY by Randy Cockrell

Free from my nurse and my Lord mother’s demand to learn needle work, I hurried to my room and changed into riding gear. In the stables, I saddled Dawn, my uhlans, as the stable master eyed me.

“And where are you going?”

“Hunting.”

His eyebrow rose. “Spring is coming. Who are you going with?”

“No one. I want to get out of the castle and breathe the cold air.”

He watched as I fastened my bow to the saddle and my spear. “A lot of gear for a ride.”

I wagged my eyebrows back at him. “You never know what you’ll run into.”

“Hmm,” was his response. “I’ll send Ben with you.”

Ben was his son. He was a good companion. “Sure. Where is he?”

The stable master whistled and Ben hurried through the stable door. “Papa?”

“Saddle up and go with Lady Zung.”

Ben gave me a quick wink as he hurried to saddle his mount. I noticed he packed weapons as well. The same age, fourteen, we learned to hunt together and I was glad to have him along.

We rode out. His father called out behind us. “Be careful. The ice is melting.”

I waved and kicked Dawn into a cantor as we reached the gate.

Two hours later we were at the lake. I knew that the wisent herded on the other side. I guided Dawn down the bank.

“Don’t, Yunki. We don’t know if the ice will hold.”

I sniffed. “It’s too early for the lake to melt.” I kept moving down the bank.

“Lady Zung!” His tone was sharp and he only called me Lady Zung when the adults were around or I was being particularly dense.

I sighed and turned in the saddle. “The melt has only just started, Ben. The ice is going to be four feet thick.”

“Do you know where they cut last?”

I had to stop and think. Where was the last place the men had cut ice? I shrugged. “Don’t know. It’ll be obvious.”

Ben shook his head. “Better not. I know you’re after a wisent. But let’s just hunt for a gulate instead. There are bound to be beds around here. Look,” he pointed at the lake edge. “You can see a thin line of water.”

He was right but I really wanted a wisent before their thick winter pelt started to shed. “Then you hunt for gulate. Summer will last three years. I’m going for a wisent.” I kicked Dawn in the ribs and dashed down the bank and onto the lake. I ignored the faint cracking of ice as I guided her straight across. I could hear Ben behind me and I grinned.

Dawn’s large feet were secure on the ice but I didn’t push her. No sense risking a slip and having her break a leg. I eyed the lake in front of us. It looked completely safe. As we neared the center, Ben four lengths behind me, I heard the ice crack. A loud snap that made Dawn’s head toss.

“Stop, Yunki!”

I tried to get Dawn to back up but more cracking made her dance. Then we were both in the water, the uhlans thrashing all six legs and shoving me into the sharp ice as she tried to climb out.

“Hold on!” Ben was off of his mount and pulling rope from his pack.

“Get Dawn first.”

“Don’t be stupid! She’s made for the cold.”

“So am I.” I argued with him but he was right. Even as cold-adapted as we were, the icy water was having an effect.

He tossed a loop to me and despite Dawn’s struggles, she had her two front legs up on thick ice now, I could grab the rope and pull it over my head and arms. “Ready,” I called.

Ben finished fastening the other end to his saddle and began to back up his uhlans. “Hang on.”

I kicked hard, trying to generate some lift but my fur boots and leggings were already soggy. The edge jabbed into my chest. I could feel the force break a rib and I cried out in pain.

“What?” Ben called.

“Nothing. Keep pulling.” I gasped and did my best to slide up the edge with a wave Dawn caused as she got a third leg up onto the ice.

Dripping, I slid up just as Dawn crawled out of the water. The air caused icicles to form as the water dripped from her. She shook, sending a spray of water over me and Ben as he hurried to me.

“Let’s get you back to shore.” He helped me to my feet. As I grabbed my rib cage he brought Dawn over. “I should build a fire.”

“I’m fine. Let’s just head home.”

“In wet furs?” He looked at me as though the top of my head had just fallen off.

I started to shiver. The water had gotten to my skin. Ice was forming on my coat. My boots were already solid ice. “It’s only two hours.”

“You’ll be dead and then your Lord father will kill me. Don’t be stupid.”

In the end, I gave in and probably as well. Ben left me at a huge fire, Dawn standing as close to it as she could, and rode home for dry clothes. My oldest brother came back with him. He laughed as he dismounted. “So, little sister. Spring is coming.”

I just rolled my eyes.

 

 

 

 

Thank You!

909 Words

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Mars Wings Part 6 and Final: Flash Fiction Friday Post

A view from the “Kimberly” formation on Mars taken by NASA’s Curiosity Rover

Part 6 of 6

You can find Part 1 here:

https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/mars/images/index.html

 

I woke up a few minutes later, all kinds of people were milling around the room. Mom had a medtech kneeling next to her.

“Welcome back.”

I turned to my right, a medtech was kneeling next to me. “We gassed the room. You’re fine, you’re mom’s fine.”

“Amber?”

“They’ve been taken into custody.”

That’s when Dad knelt on my left. “Hey, pumpkin? How you doing?”

I coughed. “Okay. What’s going to happen to Amber and Tayln?”

“They were with the group that bombed the Security office. There will be an investigation. We’ll have to wait and see.”

I sat up. Dad held his hand on my back to steady me. “It’s so sad.”

“Yes it is, Pumpkin. Yes it is.”

The investigation didn’t take long. I guess Amber and Tayln told the authorities everything. They were charged with terrorism and sentenced to labor in the mines.

We were in the concourse when the verdict and sentencing were read. All of us clustered around a bench, watching the monitors. Kayla and I had our arms wrapped around each other and cried when the camera focused on Amber and Tayln. Both of them wept as the security officers took them away.

“How awful,” Elise said as we sat, stunned on the bench.

“How awful for Dary,” Albert snarled. “He died in the bombing.”

I nodded. “And Angus is still in the hospital.”

Tommie and Hope were besties and had their arms around each other as Kayla and I were. Both of them had tears running down their faces. “I don’t understand,” Hope said, sniffling. “What good did the bombing do?”

“It got attention, I guess.” The vids for the last few days had been full of the names of the separatist group. All of them arrested. “Maybe they thought no one was listening to them.”

“Maybe they were self-centered jerks,” Albert snapped. “Killing and maiming over a hundred people. That’s not how you get attention—get things done.”

I wiped my eyes and stood up. “True. We need to do better about keeping people informed.”

“Informed?” Kayla looked up at me. “How?”

“Well, Amber was angry that we’re eating soy meat. She really believed we eat that because we ship all of the food we grow to Earth.”

“That’s a load of crap.” Albert pointed at me. “People on Earth have rationing too.”

“I know. So maybe if we all knew how much of what we produce gets shipped to Earth, and why, it may make people more understanding.” I put my hand on Albert’s arm. He was trembling with anger.

“Maybe.” He shook my hand off of his arm. “But I’m going to be listening. Anyone who starts talking like a separatist is going to get my fist in their face.” He stalked off.

I just felt tired. “See you all later.” I waved and headed home. I was only twelve. I’d think about it all another day.

 

Thank You!

487 Words

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Mars Wings Part 3: Flash Fiction Friday Post

pia21206

You can find Part 1 here: http://wp.me/p6LAko-Om

Part 3 of 5

Photo by https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/mars/images/index.html

We changed the subject. None of us had the answers. It bothered me that people wanted to separate from Earth. I mean, that’s where we’re from, right? I was alone reading my homework assignment on a public terminal, when my comm chimed. It was the Korian’s. I glanced at the time. They’d taken three hours. Good for them. “Hi, David.”

“Hi, Helga. We’re ready for some questions.”

“I’ll be right there.” I closed my book and hustled off. The door opened as soon as I pushed the announcer button. Ali was in the doorway. She must have been standing right there.

“Come in.” She grinned and waved me in.

“Yes, Helga. Tea?” Idai was in the kitchen.

“Thank you.” They’d found the cupboards and their starter supply of groceries.

We sat around the kitchen table and the questions started. David wanted to know about the lab schedules, Idai was concerned with water rations and the cost of air. Zane wanted to know about sports groups. Seems he was into basketball. Ali’s only question was, “Does Mars celebrate Christmas?”

“Of course. You’ll see on the Main Concourse. It’s decorated, you can buy gifts at the stores. There’s an increase in the sugar rations for the holiday so stock up now.” I could see everyone visibly relax.

Then David asked. “Is it safe? The video talked about a separatist group.” Idai stopped smiling.

I shrugged. “There’s some discussion. Why?”

“No attacks on new arrivals? On government offices?” David stared hard at me.

“Nothing. It’s safe. You can go anywhere that’s not restricted. No one will bother you.”

I watched Idai take David’s hand. “It’s just,” she paused, “a little unnerving to get here and find out there are people who don’t like Earth. Maybe they don’t like new colonists.”

“No way. We’re growing. We like to have new people come.” I finished my tea and stood up. They didn’t look totally convinced. “Shall I walk you to the Main concourse?”

Ali leapt from her seat. “Yes. Can we, Mom? Dad? I want to see it.”

Idai and David exchanged glances. “Yes.” David stood. Idai and Zane did too. “Let’s look at our new home.”

I made them open and close the few closed doors. Most stood open all the time except during drills or emergencies. I had to spend a whole day last year in the garden when the pressure dropped in my tunnel. All the doors slammed shut while I was working the compost pile. I was the only one in there. I’ll admit I was afraid with only the periodic announcements to keep me company. The garden was in the best shape ever by the time the doors were opened.

Ali was delighted. She danced up and down pointing out the different shops and the holiday decorations.

I pointed out the public terminals. “I was doing my homework here while I waited for you.”

Zane looked interested in that. “You can log in from anywhere?”

I nodded. He nodded back. I finally impressed him.

We walked the length of the concourse and back again. “You ready to be on your own?”

David nodded. “I think so. Appreciate the tour. We’ll stay a little while. Idai wants to do some shopping.”

“Sure. Keep your rations in mind as you buy. Use your comms to keep check.”

Idai smiled. “The same as Earth, really. Rations there too.”

“Have fun.” I waved and left. Mom would be making supper and I was hungry.

At dinner dad asked how my sponsoring went.

“Good. They were a little prickly at first but they seemed good when I left them in the Main Concourse.”

“Scared, Helga. They had all the training and briefings but still, they’re on a different planet, in a hole in the ground.” Mom passed me the potato mash.

“Sure. I was nice. They have a daughter my age, Ari.” I took my share of the potatoes, Mom had made gravy to go with it, my favorite.

“What’s the father do?” Dad took the potatoes from me while mom passed the green beans.

“Biologist. The mom, Idai didn’t say what she does.”

“We’re expecting a couple more computer techs in this wave. Maybe I’ll meet her.” Mom said.

We were nearly done with dinner when the separatist conversation came to my mind. “Do you know anything about the separatist movement, Dad?”

He stopped mopping his plate with his roll and looked at me. “Why?”

I shrugged. “I heard some of the kids talking about it. That Earth is taking stuff from us. It was in the video’s the Korian’s watched and David asked if there was any danger.” I ate the last of my soy-beef while dad composed his answer. As a security officer, he’d know the truth.

He took a deep breath. “There is a sentiment running through the colony that Mars should be more autonomous.”

“What’s autonomous?”

“Independent, dear,” mom answered.

Dad nodded. “Right. There’s no organized group, per se. But there are members of the council who have broached the topic. They believe we’re strong enough to govern our own affairs.”

It sounded dull to me. “Oh. So Earth government doesn’t take our research and inventions from us for nothing?”

Dad scowled. “They pay for a lot, it’s only fair they get a return on their investments.”

Finance. That sounded more boring that government. “Sounds fair, I guess.” I picked up my plate and headed for the dishwasher. “I’ve got homework to finish. Great dinner, Mom.”

“Thank you, Helga.” She stood up and grabbed empty bowls. “I’m glad you liked it.”

Dad laughed. “You made potato mash and gravy. She thinks it’s great every time.”

“I do!”

Later in my room I finished my homework and started a game. As I shot alien ships from the screen I thought about what Amber and Tayln said in the concourse. They seemed pretty upset about Earth. I wondered if maybe Dad was holding back information. Maybe I’d ask around in the morning.

 

 

Thank You!

1000 Words

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Mars Wings 2: Flash Fiction Friday Post

mars-sunset-msl-curiosity-martian-sky-pia194001

http://mars.nasa.gov/multimedia/images/?ImageID=7189 Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS/Texas A&M Univ.

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover recorded this view of the sun setting at the close of the mission’s 956th Martian day, or sol (April 15, 2015), from the rover’s location in Gale Crater.

Here’s the thing. I couldn’t stop thinking about this story last week. http://wp.me/p6LAko-Om.  I knew it was just a partial story and it kept nagging at me. So here we are. I’m going to make this a short serial and give you both a Christmas and a New Year’s story out of it. I’m totally pantsing this thing so you get it rough and only lightly edited. Hope you enjoy.

Part 2 of 5

It would take at least two hours for them to get settled and view the first video. Longer if they decided to be thorough and view all the associated vids. I decided to hustle over to the main tunnel. It was the original tunnel, that the first landers found and developed into the first habitat. Now it’s the Main Street, as they say on Earth. A large concourse, the old berths now shops. It’s beautiful, all the walls covered in spider plants and such that take CO2 and turn it into oxy. Planters with flowers in the walkway the ceiling had a light net that made it seem like stars twinkling. My favorite part of the habitat.

My crew was in front of Benji’s, the ice cream shop. As old as the habitat, one of the original landers, Benji, retired and decided to grow soy beans. He figured out how to make it into ice cream. No dairy needed. He always said that’s what he missed most. Now his son, Dayrn, runs the place, or did. He’s gotten old, too, and people get old slowly on Mars. Grandson, Isha, is the new manager, learning from his dad. I like that. Mars business belongs to Mars.

I skidded into the group, knocking Kayla to the side. She punched me in the arm. “Earther!”

“Waiter.” I punched her back. We both laughed.

“How’d it go?” Tayln lounged against a planter of Christmas cactus. It was far from blooming.

I sank, cross-legged to the tile floor. “As you’d expect. Lots of questions. A little resentment.” I rolled my eyes. It was the same every ship. They thought they knew it all. Coming to rescue the hicks. “I liked the girl. My age. Gads, she’s so small!”

Everyone laughed. I was the last in the group to get sponsor duty. They’d all been through it.

“Who do you think will buy it?” Dary asked, all hyped. He made me nervous, to be honest. There was something wrong with him.

“No one, I hope. If I’m a good enough sponsor.”

Dary giggled. A sound all wrong in more than one way.

“Maybe so. But I’ll do my best.”

“I don’t know why they keep allowing them to come.” Tayln shook his head. “We don’t need them. They keep us back. All this talk about Earth. We’re Mars. We don’t need them.”

“Too much listening to Sirius, Tayln.” Amber stretched her whole body. It was like watching liquid in motion.

“What do you mean?” I wanted to know.

Amber was a year younger than Tayln but, I thought, twice as smart. She was working in the astro-physics lab when she wasn’t with us. Tayln was in the Engineering section, and it was just clean-up, to be honest. Work that had to be done but still, not as smart as Amber.

She drew a breath. “I agree, Tayln, that we shouldn’t be tied so much to Earth. I mean, really. They’re marking winter’s onset and we’re coming into spring. It’s ludicrous. And all these Earth holidays. Bastille Day, what’s that mean to us. We should have a Lander’s Day.”

“We do have Lander’s Day.” I didn’t understand. What was wrong with Bastille Day?

Amber smiled at me. “True, little one.” She looked around the group. “But what holiday is coming?”

“Christmas.” I and all the rest shouted.

“I love Christmas.” I had to admit. The wall tree, the presents, the extra colored lights. It made everything happier.

“And what does Christmas mean to us?” Amber looked around the circle.

“An extra sugar ration!” Angus Holloran called out. We all laughed.

“Yes,” Amber grinned. “Extra sugar ration. Candy, chocolate, it’s all a party, isn’t it?” She grew serious. “But what does it mean?”

We all shook our heads.

“It’s a religious holiday.” She looked around the group as people walked by us, toddlers in tow, shopping bags filled with the week’s groceries. “It’s a yoke, to tie us to Earth.”

I had to take a minute to process that. What was she saying? “What religion?” I finally asked.

Tayln snorted. “The one that keeps us tied to Earth.”

“And why is that bad?” I wanted to know. All of our time was dual, Mars and Earth time. Mars rotated at a different rate, of course our days differed but still, we all knew what time it was in Greenwich. Our most important shifts of scientists and government worked to Greenwich time.

Amber looked at me with a sad smile. I felt like an idiot and began to blush. “Sweet child. It’s a trick to keep us tied.” She looked to Tayln, who nodded. “We’re nothing but a cash cow to Earth. We discover new materials, new insight into the cosmos, new medicines and they take it all. As though they’re our masters!”

I didn’t like the word masters. It made me feel small and ignorant. I’m not small or ignorant. “Why?”

Amber stood. I knew the audience was over. “To keep us down, Sweet one. To keep us down.”

She swept away, Tayln trailing. The rest of us huddled together. “What’s she mean by that?” I asked.

Elise, Tommie, Hope, Dary, Kayla and Albert shook their heads. They were older than me but younger than Amber and Tayln. “I think they’re radicals.” Tommie finally said. “My pop said there’s a group in the habitat that are trying to get us to break away from Earth.

“Break away? That’s stupid. Where would we go?” I was annoyed. We were in orbit around the same sun. How could we break away?

“The governments,” Elise said. “We don’t answer to the Earth government. We don’t take their colonists unless we say so. We don’t send all of our work to them for nothing.”

“Are you a radical?” I asked. I mean what else were we supposed to do? “We owe Earth. That’s in all the histories.

Elise shrugged her shoulders. “I don’t know. Do you?”

 

 

 

 

 

Thank You!

994 Words

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Mars Wings: Friday Flash Fiction Post

mars-mro-orbiter-fresh-crater-sirenum-fossae-br2

http://mars.nasa.gov/multimedia/images/?ImageID=7731  Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona

I’ve been watching the Smithsonian channel show, Mars. A mix of television show and documentary. It’s really getting me as excited about the space program again as I was when I was a kid, racing home from school to watch space launches. The following story is just a brief foray into space once again. And yes, there are echoes of Heinlein in there.

 

I waited at the gate. The first families with children were arriving from Earth. Would they look different somehow? In class, we’d been told about how different it would be for them. They wouldn’t be able to go outside without a suit. They wouldn’t automatically know all the safety rules. They may become claustrophobic living inside the tunnels. They’d be stronger, having grown up in a heavier gravity.

All in all, I wondered if their parents had a clue. What were they thinking?

The alarm sounded, the light over the door began to flash, and the pressure lock opened. They came down the ramp in family groups their duffels banging against their legs. Parents and children looked around, wide-eyed. Their faces showed fear, then after they realized they could breathe, curiosity, at the tunnel, plants lining the walls, the crowd waiting for them.

I waited as each family’s sponsor was called as they hit the bottom of the ramp. My name was called when the eighth family appeared. I moved through the crowd of Martians and stopped at the registration table. The guy at the table was taking their names. The Korian family, Dad, David, Mom, Idai, Daughter, Ali, Son, Zane, I overheard. The registrar looked up. “Hey, Helga. The Korian family is going to berth 23, tunnel 4.” He handed David a set of key cards. “Your keys. One for each of you. Lose a card, it will be fifty credits to buy a new one.” David nodded while Idai, Ali and Zane stared at me. “Helga will guide you to your new quarters. She’s your sponsor. You need to ask questions, call her. She’ll give you her comm.”

“Thank you.” David told the registrar. He turned to me. “Lead on, Miss.”

“Later, Pavel.” I waved to the registrar. He was a neighbor in my family’s tunnel.

He gave me a wave and looked at the next family.

“This way.” I turned and left, moving through the thinning crowd. The Korian’s followed. David moved up beside me. “How old are you?”

I knew that was coming. We’d been briefed on the culture. “I’m twelve. I’m tall for my age compared to Earth normal. The lower gravity allows us to grow taller.”

Idai nodded. “I’d read that. You’re the same age as Ali.”

I took a quick look at Ali. She had to be a head shorter than me. “Nice to meet you.”

“Um, not to be rude, but you’re our sponsor? Not your parents?” David asked, a look of disbelief on his face.

“Yep. I’m your sponsor. I know everything you need to know. I was born here. It’s all automatic for me. My parents have their own people to sponsor.”

“I see.”

His tone of voice said he didn’t.

“You’ll find that kids here have a lot of responsibility. There aren’t a lot of us. So, everyone, even kids, have duties to perform. This is one of mine. I’m also the garden supervisor in my tunnel.”

“Garden supervisor?” Ali looked curious.

“Yes. I’m responsible for collecting any compostables from each berth, getting it to the garden compost pile, and setting up the work schedules.”

Zane spoke. “Will we get jobs?”

“Eventually. Not when you’re newbs. You don’t know enough yet.”

David was having a bit of trouble with the plan. “I don’t mean to criticize but you’re only twelve. I’m a research biologist. Why would I take orders from a twelve-year-old?”

I sighed as I guided them left into tunnel two. “Because I know how things work here and you don’t. I don’t mean to be rude but you just got off the boat. You don’t know the emergency procedures. You don’t know where anything is. You need to become acclimated.”

“We took all the classes,” Ali said.

“That’s good. You’ll need that information.” I turned to look at her. “First thing you do when you get to your berth is watch the newcomer vid. That’s critical. It will tell you your assembly point in case of a problem. It will give you your passwords and set up your accounts. You can’t do anything or go anywhere until that is done because none of the pressure doors will open for you.”

“I know that,” Zane said. His voice reflected his father’s. Probably thought a fifteen-year-old boy shouldn’t have to listen to a twelve-year-old girl.

“Good.” We turned right into tunnel 3. “School is on your own vid. There’s a vid in every room so there won’t be any problems getting your classwork.” I looked at the parents. “Or your work assignments. David. I know you’ll be working in the labs. You can download the maps to the warren and the locations of where you want to go, from there.”

I turned right again into tunnel 4. “This tunnel is new, made to accommodate the new colonists from your ship. I stopped halfway down the tunnel in front of the door with a big, red, 23 stenciled on it. “Your new home.

David stepped forward and pressed the card to the lock. The door opened.

“It’s a pressure lock.” Idai studied the door with some surprise.

“Nearly every door is.” I motioned them to go in. “My comm code is on your introductory vid. Comm units for each of you are on the kitchen table. I’ll let you get settled.” I backed away from the door.

Idai raised her hand. “Wait! What about…?”

“Watch the vid then call me. I’ll come back and you can ask your questions.” I left. They had to learn how to think for themselves. Odds were one of the four of them would make a fatal mistake in the first seven days. I hoped it wasn’t Ari. She seemed nice.

 

 

 

 

Thank You!

956 Words

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Trapped in Nowhere: Flash Fiction Friday Post

Space Freighter

Space Freighter

This story is based on one I wrote in January 2015. See “Escape”.

“I’m sorry! The frackin’ console was exploding and the Orion was gaining. There must have been a malfunction.” Pete Ostrander slammed the lid of the console down. Smoke and scorch marks marred the edges and around the buttons.

Captain Jan A’Mungo pulled her afro down, pulled all the loose hair back and tied it up with an elastic. She was sick of the tendrils falling into her eyes.

“Not his fault, Jan.” Jack Ender entered the bridge. “The cargo’s secured. That last jump was a doosey but everything is in good shape. The Orion had us in a corner.”

Jan’s eyes narrowed. “Don’t try and sweet talk me Jack. That was FUBAR and you know it.”

“Come on, Jan. This is a rust bucket and we were up against a state of the art Galactic patrol vessel. We’re lucky we came out the other side.” Pete gently touched a button and winced. The monitor he wanted came on without exploding. He released his breath.

“Report.” Jan tugged her tunic down and got back into the command chair. “Where are we?”

Pete tapped the buttons on his console. Screen after screen came up and went. He scratched his chin and the week old beard. “Um, nowhere.”

Both of the others turned to stare at him.

“Well, of course we’re somewhere.” He shrugged. “I just don’t know where that is.”

Jan gripped the armrests on her chair and took a deep breath. She counted to ten. Then she turned to her husband. “Please explain.”

“I tapped in the coords for Epsilon 4. But the console was sparking all over the place what with Ho blasting us to crap. So now, here we are.” Pete rubbed an ear. “If I get lucky, I can figure out what was damaged and trace us back.”

“Into Captain Ho?” Jack ran a hand through his cropped black hair.

Pete shook his head. “I don’t think so. He’s probably long gone. We left in a hurry and he probably didn’t have time to calculate our jump.”

“Apparently neither did we.” Jan’s eyes narrowed again at her husband. “You can get us back?” She watched as her husband pressed a finger to the spot between his eyes. She knew from experience he was about to tell a tale.

“Um. Sure. We can get back.”

Jack rolled his eyes. “I’ll check our inventory.” He got up and left the bridge.

Jan waited until Jack was gone. Pete was fussing with his console. “You don’t have a clue. Do you?”

He ran the heel of his hand across his cheek. “Well, no. But I will. Really.”

Jan got up and put a hand on his shoulder, her cheek next to his. “I believe you. Get it done.”

He gave her that lopsided grin that had attracted her to him in the first place. “Sure, Captain. I’ll get right on it.”

She cuffed him, gently, in the head. “Good. I’m gonna take a nap. Call me when you have something.”

#

Eight hours later, showered and with a food pack in hand, she re-entered the bridge. Pete had the lid of the console up. Jack was missing. “How’s it going?”

“Jack went to bed about 4 hours ago.” He shut the lid of the console. His blond hair stood up in every direction and his eyes had dark circles under them. “I think I have it.”

She sat in her command chair and popped the top on the food. The smell of beef stew filled the bridge. “What do you have?” Jan spooned a mouthful and waited.

“Well.” Pete rubbed his eyes. “I traced the jump record back to the attack. The last fifteen seconds before the jump I can see where there’s a power surge in the jump circuits.” He arched his back and stretched his neck back. “Anyway. I think I know where the surge sent us. If so, we have a new, uncharted jump point.” He arched an eyebrow.

Jan blinked, the stew forgotten in her hand. “A new jump point. One the Galactic Patrol doesn’t know about.”

Pete grinned. “If we can get back.”

Jan’s hand covered her mouth, eyes wide. “Our own, secret, jump point.” She dropped her hand and grinned. “Can you get us back?”

“I think so.”

“Make your notes and go get some sleep. We’ll do this when you’re rested.”

#

Eight hours later, they were all in their seats on the bridge, strapped in and ready. “Proceed when ready.” Jan nodded and smiled at her husband.

He turned to his console. She could see his shoulders rise and fall with a deep breath. “Commencing jump sequence.”

“Jump sequence commencing. Proceed.” Jan gripped the arms of her command chair. She didn’t know if they were going to make it back to known space or leap out farther into uncharted space.

Jack as usual, joked. “Saddle up boys and girls. It’ll be a ride.”

Jan rolled her eyes just as Pete hit the button. The ship shook as space blurred and time seemed to slow to a crawl. It felt like forever between breaths. After what seemed like an eternity, they popped out into real space. The stars aligned.

Pete studied the monitors closely then turned his chair to face the rest. “We made it. We’re just outside of Talia system.”

Jack whooped, unbuckling and leaping out of his seat to embrace Pete. “I knew you could do it!”

Jan winked at her husband. “Better mark the spot. We’re gonna want to know these coords.”

Pete gave her a mock salute. “Yes, ma’am. Right away, ma’am.”

“Prepare to jump to Onyms system. We have a cargo of weapons to deliver.”

Jack bowed to her. “Yes, oh great queen of the spaceways. We hear and obey.”

She snorted. “You’d better.”

They all laughed and got to work. The rebellion had a new weapon. A secret jump point. Jan grinned. This might even get them some parts and repairs.

Thank You!

993 Words

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Glowing Voyager: Friday Flash Fiction Post

Heavenly Light by GreyGhost - STOCK via DeviantArt.com

Heavenly Light by GreyGhost – STOCK via DeviantArt.com

Stardate 35198.666

Planet Hydra Operations Center

HQ

 

Reports of a glowing voyager traveling on beams of light have been reported throughout the colony. Scientists are interviewing witnesses. Voyager appears to be humanoid. Efforts are underway to find and interview the voyager. Working theory is that the voyager is from another planet and is studying Hydra.

 

 

Stardate 35200.618

Planet Hydra Operations Center

HQ

 

Colony scientists have met the glowing voyager. Readings indicate the voyager himself is human. Scientists are recalibrating their equipment suspecting a malfunction. Voyager spoke Standard and no radiation was detected. After a short conversation where they exchanged names, he called himself, Mikhael, he disappeared in a beam of light. No source was detected for the beams. Scientists are scanning for a ship or satellite but as of this report, none have been detected. The voyager seems to appear randomly. Colony leadership does not believe this voyager is a threat but colonists have been cautioned not to reveal colony security measures.

 

 

Stardate 35203.532

Planet Hydra Operations Center

HQ

 

The voyager calling himself Mikhael has appeared before Colonel Owusu. The appearance was in the Colonel’s office so full recordings of the visit are available and being attached to this report. Mikhael offered protection but did not indicate what threat was imminent, if any. Still no source for the beams of light have been discovered but Mikhael has declared that he can bring light to the colony. Linguists are studying the recordings for hidden or alternate meanings.

 

 

Stardate 35206.351

Planet Hydra Operations Center

HQ

 

The glowing voyager has been communicating with the colonists. Reports indicate that Mikhael is promising deliverance and pardon but without indicating what threat endangers the colony. Colonists are divided in opinion of the visitor between following him or being frightened. There is still a portion of the colonists who have not personally seen the voyager but they are forming opinions based on hearsay. Colonel Owusu has released a communication to all colonists to remain calm. No threats from space or from the planet have been detected. Scans of the voyager with recalibrated equipment still indicate that the voyager is human. No source for the beams of light Mikhael travels in has been found.

 

 

Stardate 35231.320

Planet Hydra Operations Center

HQ

 

Over the past ten days, the colonists have begun traveling to the glowing voyager whenever he appears. The being talks to the colonists of restoration and pardon, implying their behavior have been harmful to others. Colony productivity has fallen by eighteen percent as colonists leave their work to go listen to Mikhael. The voyager has begun appearing in the same place every day, contributing to the fall in productivity. Colonists who are not followers are calling for the alien to be captured and questioned. Security has concluded that until we can establish where those beams of light come from, there is no way to secure the voyager.

 

 

Stardate 35232.675

Planet Hydra Operations Center

HQ

 

During this morning’s appearance, Mikhael announced that another is coming and for the colonists to prepare. Mikhaelists, as the followers have been called, have begun festival preparations. Work throughout the colony has ceased except for essential services. Colonel Owusu has declared a state of emergency, but colonists following the glowing voyager refuse to remain in their homes. Those colonists are building a shrine to welcome the announced visitor. Security officers have joined the Mikhaelists and the force is down by fifty-three percent. At present, there are no confrontations, simply civil disobedience. Colony leadership plans to have security on location when the new alien arrives.

 

 

Stardate 35234.841

Planet Hydra Operations Center

HQ

 

At 35234.677, planetary dawn, Mikhael arrived and greeted the Mikhaelists gathered. The new visitor arrived, also in a beam of light and remaining security forces surrounded the platform built to welcome the new arrival. Scientists performed scans and received similar results as from scans of Mikhael. The new arrival greeted the colonists and called himself Iam and promised peace and liberation if they followed him. Colonel Owuso believes the threat to be alien occupation of the colony. Colony leadership requests advice on how to proceed.

 

 

The End

683 Words

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Colony Princess: Flash Fiction Friday Story

1308160316_phoenix_by_o_eternal_o-d242bq2 via DeviantArt.com

1308160316_phoenix_by_o_eternal_o-d242bq2 via DeviantArt.com

Rose Apfel gazed out over the colony from her fourth-story apartment balcony window. “You can do it,” her father, King Stone Apfel had told her. “It’s the best, least dangerous planet our people have ever found. The top predator is a half-inch spider. It isn’t even toxic.”

So she had agreed. The ship arrived five years ago with four hundred colonists. Those were the prep team. They built housing and labs and civic buildings and parks and squares and farms. A year later came the second wave, scientists and mathematicians, astronomers and some entertainment crafts. In the third year came teachers and entrepreneurs, musicians, artists and craftsmen. Those were busy, glorious years full of thoughts of the future.

Then last year came the dragons. They flew overhead eating the stock, burning the apartments, houses, stores and civic buildings. Oh, they ate the native animal life, large, bovine and lizard-like creatures all of whom were vegetarian. But they relished the imported livestock. The price of meat, dairy and leather skyrocketed. The price of grain and vegetables rose through the roof. Rose sighed. A year of predation and now, she had to make some very hard choices. A gong sounded. Time to go down to her cabinet meeting.

Seated at the head of the table, Rose listened to a long list of problems. Worst was the loss of communications. The dragons had burned the communications towers for the fifth time in a year. They just couldn’t get word through to her father on their home planet. She drummed her fingers on the highly polished wooden table. “Two things.” She looked around the table. “I can see that everyone is working as hard as they can.”

The tiny complement cheered the glum group staring back at her. “Unfortunately that is not enough. We need to work smarter. No one has yet determined where these dragons have come from and why they’re here now. I want one captured and studied.”

Every man and woman slumped in their seat. “Second. We implement rationing immediately. Palace residents, included.” Her prime minister paled. His girth displayed his love of banquets.

A week later, word was sent that they had captured a dragon. She went immediately to the science labs, re-built underground after the above ground buildings were destroyed shortly after the dragons emerged. The dragon was in a fire-proof transparent walled cage. Her breath caught in her throat at her first sight of it. Emerald green scales glittered with silver highlights on the edges. Rose tinted the dragon’s spine from the top of its head to the tip of its tail. “It’s beautiful!”

“Indeed, Princess.” The lead scientist, River Aspen, stood, hands behind his back in front of the cage. “We rendered the beast unconscious, My Lady, and drew blood and other fluids. The test results are that the creature’s biology is consistent with that of this planet. What we cannot know at this point, is why in the fifteen years between the initial study of the planet and our settlement, that these creatures were never discovered.”

Rose nodded. That was the main question. “Some sort of cyclical life-cycle?”

“That is the only explanation, Princess.” Scientist Aspen turned at a movement of the dragon. “Ah. This is why we called you. The dragon is awaking.”

“You used fireproof glass?” Rose eyed the cage enclosure as the dragon stirred.

“Oh, yes, Princess. And triple strength walls.”

Reassured, the Princess watched as the roomful of scientists monitored the screens showing the dragon’s heart rate and other medical or biological functions. A speaker system let them hear the dragon as it woke from the sedatives. It opened its eyes after rumbles, mumbles and snorts, scrambling to its feet and falling against the walls. It chirruped and growled, shaking its head.

“Its trying to clear the sedative fog,” Rose said.

“Typical behavior, Princess, for any creature after sedation.”

Gaining strength, it roared at the scientists and tried to blow flame but coughed instead. It seemed to glare at them then proceeded to investigate every inch of the cell. It came back to the window and roared again.

The princess walked to the window and gazed at the creature. It bent its head down and looked back at her with golden eyes. “Scientist Aspen, do you have a translator installed in the creature’s cell?”

The scientist’s mouth dropped open. “Why, no, Princess. It’s an animal.”

She put her hand up to the glass. The dragon did the same, it’s huge clawed foot dwarfing her hand on the other side of the glass. “So are we. Set it up immediately.”

While the scientists worked on setting up the translator, Rose took her mid-day tea in a chair in front of the cage. Water and a small raw roast were placed in the cage and the dragon ate with her.

Aspen hurried to her when her tea was finished. “It’s installed, Princess.”

She stood up and faced the cage. She bowed. “Dragon. I’m Princess Rose Apfel, leader of this colony we call Gamilios. What is your name?”

The dragon chirruped, hissed and growled. “The translator is working on the language, Princess.”

“Our months are Wasardi, Hori, Shami, Tre, Kaloc, Arac, Hekani, Areg, Kani, Mareri, Margac and Hrotic. We count zero, one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten and we use a base ten for our mathematics. We eat meat as well as vegetables and grain. We come from a planet many light years away. We call this sun Shahova and this planet, Ardes.”

She could hear the speaker within the cage hissing and chirruping. The dragon spoke, “I’m Beroan, mother of Nesenth, who are you?”

The Princess curtsied. “I’m Princess Rose, leader of this colony. I think we have much to talk about, Beroan.”

A year later, they held a joint celebration of the birth of cooperation between two cultures. The Gamilosians raised enough food for the dragons, and the dragons could visit the stars.

 

The End

995 Words

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Flash Fiction Friday Story: Never Again

Food Bar by Connie Cockrell

Food Bar by Connie Cockrell

Fergus Boylan woke and checked the readout in front of him. A groan escaped his lips. It was day 13 of his forced confinement. All systems indicators read nominal in the life pod but there was still no ship within reach–yet.

He rose and in the tiny personal unit took care of his bodily needs and washed his face and hands. In the two square meter area in the center of the pod he did the recommended exercises to keep up his strength. Not normally an exercise fanatic, he did them because there simply wasn’t much else to occupy his time. Wiping down after the exercises took another ten minutes.

Fergus sat in the chair in front of the food dispenser and sighed. This was the worst part of the day for a young man who looked forward to meal time. His stomach growled so he pushed the button. The dispenser spat out a food bar. Textured yeast protein–that’s what the manual said it was. Gray and without scent, it was the least appetizing food possible. It tasted worse. Fergus took a bite and wondered how the bar could be both crumbly and hard to chew at the same time. He punched the button on the dispenser and a water bulb rolled out of the opening. He admired the packaging as he pushed the spot on the bulb that caused a short straw to emerge. The entire bulb was made of hydrogen and oxygen, the same as the water it held, but solid.

He sipped to wash the food bar down. Too bad the engineers couldn’t come up with a tastier food bar, he groused to himself. The food was so awful he’d stopped eating three times a day. It wasn’t worth it. Already his ship suit was looser.

As he chewed he studied the screens in front of him. After all this time in the life pod, after the skeletal space station he was apprentice project manager on, exploded, he’d read the entire pod manual from cover to cover, twice. Because he’d stopped eating the mid-day meal, he saw that he had extended his food reserves by two weeks. He didn’t think he could eat those textured yeast protein bars for another two weeks. Matter of fact, he didn’t think he could face another one today. He checked the long range scans. Please let there be a ship out there. But it wasn’t so. He turned off that screen and brought up a picture of a sea shore and turned up the sound of waves washing up on the beach. He pulled up the manual and began to study the pod’s structure. It was something to do.

Two days later he started out of bed at an alarm. Tangled in the blanket, he rolled out of the bed and staggered to the console. Was the ship on fire? Had a meteor hit the pod? He clicked through the screens in rapid succession. No, no, no, the ship was fine. Then he clicked on the long range scan. There was a ship! Oh hallelujah, a ship! He checked his distress signal. It was broadcasting properly, they were just far away.

Fergus clicked the link to transmit. “Hello, unidentified ship, this is the life pod Argosy. Fergus Boylan requesting rescue.”

He waited, fingers drumming on the console top. “Ship, this is the life pod Argosy, requesting assistance.” He chewed his lower lip. After fifteen days in the pod alone, he was ready to talk to anyone. Fergus pushed the dispenser button for water and drank the entire bulb. When he crumpled up the empty, it evaporated into the air to be recycled in the pod’s system.

Static came over the speakers, then faint and full of static, “Argosy, this is the freighter, Star Chaser. We are coming to fetch you. Stand by.”

Fergus whooped and danced around the tiny pod. Back at the console he transmitted again. “Star Chaser this is Argosy. Standing by.” If he never saw a textured yeast protein bar again it would be too soon.

He paced around the pod. There wasn’t anything to pack—he’d raced to the pod ahead of the fire with nothing but the ship suit on his back. It took five hours for the Star Chaser to bring the life pod on board. As soon as the hatch opened, Fergus hugged the young crewman outside the door. “Do you have something to eat? I’m starving.”

 

The End

730 Words

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