It’s So Beautiful: Flash Fiction Friday Post

New Babylon by DigitalCutti on DeviantArt

I was scrolling through Pinterest, a SciFi page, and saw the above picture. It looked so lovely. A place I wanted to go. But a story about a beautiful place with lovely, generous people who would help a bunch of refugees sounded like a boring story. So I came up with this. If it reminds you of The Time Machine, by H.G. Wells and Morlocks, well, yes. Read on.

It’s So Beautiful

We gathered around the monitors as if around ancient campfires.

“I thought it was a lie,” my best friend Jazana breathed softly, as though she didn’t want to break a dream.

“They said it was true.” My response was lame but I was too fascinated with what was on the monitor to think of a sharper comeback. Jazana was right. None of us had really believed what our board of governors had told us. Oh, yes. They’d shown us pictures. Both of Helicity, the new world, and of our old world, Earth System One, Ganymede.

The old world, which I clearly remembered, was a pit of corporate greed and too many people in too small a space. The ship, Rebellion, was put together secretly, though the details we were given were fuzzy. I mean, how’d the leaders of the rebellion hide a whole space ship? But anyway, we were loaded on in secret, shoved into cryo-pods and frozen. They’d woken us two years ago and began teaching us skills.

Jazana wrapped an arm around me. We were both orphans. Somehow both of our sets of parents had died in the pods. I sighed. The world looked so good on long-range. Modern, clean, beautiful. There wasn’t a trace of smog on the screen. As the planet rotated and our ship drew closer, we could see that the whole planet was like that. I dashed the tears from my eyes.

Jazana and I were in the same track, engineering with a minor in leadership. We were going to be management. There were lots of engineering lessons. We were the ones taking care of this ship. But there were also lessons on leadership and government. Economics, too, and social engineering. One day one of us could be the governor. Leader of our rebellion colony. Helicity was a stopgap home. We’d learned that the info about Helicity had been stolen. None of our data had indicated if Earth System had ever visited the planet. It was a risk, our teachers had told us. But one worth while if we could find a planet of our own.

A week later our leaders shuttled down to Helicity, their capital city of Tatham, to meet with their planetary leaders. I could hardly concentrate on our pulse engine power coupling lesson as thoughts about what was going on whirled through my head. A spanner banged down next to my hand on the cover of the coupling.

“Bang, Zuri. Congratulations. You’ve just killed us all.” Sergeant Aranyo glared at me.

I blushed to the roots of my blonde hair. “Sorry, Sergeant Aranyo. I lost my concentration.”

“Pull your head out. Start again. All of you. Thank Zuri for it.”

I had a sympathetic look from Jazana but the other five cadets gave me a glare. That was going to cost me. Probably my dinner. My stomach growled. We’d been on short rations for the last six months. I couldn’t afford to give up my dinner, but it looked like Jaque, the Captain’s son, biggest bully in our age group, was going to make me pay. The others went along because it was just easier that way. No one wanted Jaque’s attention on them. No one would stick up for me against that, despite all the training that said otherwise.

After dinner, the board of governors shared pictures of Tatham as they rode in hover cars from the landing pad to the Council chambers. It was so beautiful. There was no word on whether they’d let us stay, give us supplies, or even give us the address of another planet. It was too early, the Governor Prime said. I believed him. He was such a kindly looking man.

We worked all week, different engine systems each day, with combat training tossed in to keep us in shape. Somehow, I was always paired with Jaque. I had the bruises to prove it. The seventh day I limped to the medic. She took a look at my knee.

“It’s not broken, just bruised. I don’t have any pain meds. I have to save them for serious cases.”

I nodded. That’s the way things went on our ship. Too little of everything.

“Keep a cold pack on it when you’re not working.” She handed one to me. “Bring it back in three days.”

“Of course.”

On the tenth day, the Governor was back on the monitor. A deal had been struck. We were going to be allowed to move into the city—get jobs, while the council of Helicity decided on a home planet for us.

The cheering could be heard all over the ship.

Off-loading began on day twelve. I had everything of value I owned in my duffle. Jazana and the other girls from my cabin were in line with me. We couldn’t stop grinning. We talked about what new food there would be and how much of it. We talked about walking in the sunlight, breathing fresh air, getting pretty clothes instead of ragged ship suits.

Off the ship we were loaded onto transports and taken through the downtown out to the countryside. I was so excited. Even when we entered a tunnel, I didn’t think anything of it. We were off loaded into a cavernous space with cement-looking walls. We were escorted to various halls, separated into different rooms in some random-seeming fashion. I was separated from Jazana.

I was led to a conveyor belt and shown how to attach one strange widget to another. Then the belt started. We worked for hours, then given a dry ration and a bottle of water in a room with at least a hundred cots. I was too tired to eat and fell asleep.

The same happened the next day and the next. It’s been fifty years. I haven’t seen Jazana. There are rumors, of course, that we’d been sold to save the rest. And the shock collars, to keep us in line. I haven’t seen the sun in all that time.

Mars Wings 2: Flash Fiction Friday Post

mars-sunset-msl-curiosity-martian-sky-pia194001 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.  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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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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Flash Fiction Friday: Commodity

I took this prompt from the Forward Motion site. What fuels the engine of commerce and sets people at each other’s throats to provide? Oil, Gold, Some form of magic? An exotic element? How and why is that commodity important to the world and how does it affect the characters.

I wanted something basic. Something that maybe had once been common and now was important. Here’s what I came up with.


Hobin listened to the subdued chatter in the control room. The expedition was beginning its eighth day of searching Eraze, the nearest planet to theirs. The team only had two more days to search; then they had to return to Altera. His communicator buzzed.


“Hobin, this is Kaltar. Any word yet from the expedition?”

“No sir. Nothing yet.”

“This was your idea, Hobin. Let’s all hope it works.”

Hobin rolled his eyes. Did his boss think he didn’t understand the need? “Yes sir, we all hope it works.”

He switched the communicator off and sighed. He knew better than anyone what was at stake. It buzzed in his hand. “Hobin.”

“Hobin, its Ema. You left without your lunch this morning.”

He smiled, “Yes dear, thank you for calling.”

“Shall I bring it by?”

“That would be lovely. Bring a lunch for yourself; we’ll eat in the park.”

He could just about hear her grinning at the other end of the communicator, “I will. We haven’t lunched together in far too long.”

“Alright, dear. I’ll meet you in the park at noon.”

He was still smiling as he clicked off. Getting a call from his wife would normally be the highlight of his day. But today, even better, he was going to get to see her over lunch. The communicator went back into his jacket pocket.

They met at their favorite bench in the park, right in front of a pond. A small waterfall at the near end of the pond made a lovely splashing sound, punctuating the bird calls. She was already there when he arrived. They kissed briefly and sat on the bench.

She passed him his lunch and they opened their bags. Sandwich in one hand, he held her free hand. “What have you been up to this morning?”

“Nothing, really,” she shook her head and gazed out over the water, rippling in the slight breeze. “I took my salt tablets.”

Hobin nodded, chewing. “Good. Do we have enough?”

Ema sighed, putting her sandwich on her bag. “I don’t know. We’ve been saving salt since we were married. We’ve cut into your share to the danger point. How’s the expedition doing?”

Hobin put his sandwich down too. “Nothing so far. All of the surveys were done from satellites, so who knows if we’re looking in the right places, or even if there’s any salt there at all.”

She squeezed his hand. “There has to be, Hobin. Altera can’t be the only planet in the solar system with salt.”

He nodded, moving closer to her, and put his arm around her. “I’m hoping there’s salt there. But even so, the expedition can only bring back a few pounds. Then we’d have to put together a whole mining expedition. It may take years to get enough salt back here to make a difference in the population.”

Tears in her eyes, she turned to face him. “But that would mean millions of people couldn’t have children! The population would crash.”

Wiping her eyes, he said, “True. But I don’t know what else can be done. So much waste in the past, salt used for everything. No one gave any thought to the fact it might be irreplaceable. Now, the whole species may become extinct.”

Ema patted his hand. “But your idea to mine nearby planets was good. The government even said so. They put billions of dollars into it. They must think it’s a good idea.”

“They hope so. But if the expedition doesn’t find any salt, I’m the one they’re going to blame.”

“It’s,” she started to shout, then recovered herself, “it’s not your fault. This has been coming on for generations. We need the salt to reproduce. I need the salt to reproduce.”

He stopped her. “Speaking of reproducing, are your salt levels is high enough for us to get pregnant?”

She slumped back on the bench. “Not yet.”

He turned his whole body to her and took both of her hands in his. “Take more of the salt.”

She started to protest.

“No. Take the salt in levels high enough. It’s a waste to just take a little. Get your levels up and let’s get you pregnant.”

“But,” she began.

He put his finger over her mouth. “But, nothing. Do it. I’ll worry about getting enough salt for you to carry the baby to term. You worry about getting there.”

He wiped the tears from her eyes. “It’ll be a little girl, with your eyes.”

“And your hair,” she said, a tiny smile beginning.

The communicator in his pocket buzzed. “Hobin.”

“Hobin, get back to the control center. The expedition may have found salt.”

He closed his eyes, “Yes, I’ll be there shortly.”

He switched off and said, “I’ve…”

Ema shushed him. “Go, get us some salt.”


The End

800 Words

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