Science Fiction Microstory Contest discussion

27 views
****JULY 2016 MICROSTORY CONTEST - STORIES ONLY

Comments Showing 1-19 of 19 (19 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Jack (new)

Jack McDaniel | 246 comments Science Fiction Microstory Contest (July 2016)
** STORIES ONLY **
The theme* for the month follows this note from the competition's Creator/Director, Jot Russell:

To help polish our skills and present a flavour of our art to other members in the group, I am continuing this friendly contest for those who would like to participate. There is no money involved, but there is also no telling what a little recognition and respect might generate. The rules are simple:

1) The story needs to be your own work and should be posted on the Good Reads Discussion board, which is a public group. You maintain responsibility and ownership of your work to do with as you please. You may withdraw your story at any time.

2) The stories must be 750 words or less.

3) The stories have to be science fiction, follow a specific theme and potentially include reference to items as requested by the prior month's contest winner. The theme for this month is posted below.

4) You have until midnight EST on the 22nd day of the month to post your story to the Good Reads Science Fiction Microstory Contest discussion. One story per author per month.

5) After, anyone from the LI Sci-Fi group or the GR Science Fiction Microstory Discussion group has until midnight EST of the 25th day of the month to cast a single private vote to Jot Russell () for a story other than their own. This vote will be made public once voting is closed. Voting is required. If you do not vote, your story will be disqualified from the contest. You don't need a qualifying story to cast a vote, but must offer the reason for your vote if you don’t have an entry.

6) To win, a story needs at least half of the votes, or be the only one left after excluding those with the fewest votes. Runoffs will be run each day until a winner is declared. Stories with vote totals that add up to at least half, discarding those with the fewest votes, will be carried forward to the next runoff election. Prior votes will be carried forward to support runoff stories. If you voted for a story that did not make it into the runoff, you need to vote again before midnight EST of that day. Only people who voted in the initial round may vote in the runoffs.

7) Please have all posts abide by the rules of Good Reads and the LI Sci-Fi group.

8) Professional comments and constructive criticisms are appreciated by any member in either group and should be posted to the separate thread that will be posted at the end of the month and all voting is complete to avoid any influence on the voting. Feel free to describe elements that you do and don't like, as these help us gain a better perspective of our potential readers. Remarks deemed inflammatory or derogatory will be flagged and/ or removed by the moderator.

9) The winner has THREE days after the start of the new month to make a copy of these rules and post a new contest thread using the theme/items of their choosing. Otherwise, the originator of the contest, Jot Russell, will post a new contest thread.
______________________________

*Theme / Requirements for the July 2016 contest:

Must be SciFi

Must Include: Vacation (however you want to use it), Underground City, and someone must receive a message


message 2: by Richard (last edited Jul 02, 2016 10:14PM) (new)

Richard Bunning (richardbunning) | 1 comments For King and Country

Getting into the ‘Central Territories’ had proved much easier than John expected. The fake passport would never have passed electronic scrutiny, so necessitating careful planning but nothing deeply clandestine or sophisticated. Given his third-tier citizenship he could never have legitimately travelled. The chosen airport required the picking up of luggage and customs checks before passport control, and just as Father Blair had promised the planned ruse had worked like clockwork. In the middle of John’s case was a gold watch, placed to appear crudely hidden, still with a price tag from its purchase in England. He'd flown in with the woman set up to play his wife, and their apparent argument about whether to go through the red or green zone had played out perfectly. Security personnel couldn’t possibly have failed to see the drama. The woman was gone now, apparently upset, alone, straight on to passport control. In a few hours she would be dead, when the plastic bags of what she had believed was only pure heroin burst in her bowels. The authorities would never test for ‘gastric acids’ in the bowel leaked from inside the compromised plastic. They had arrived together under the same name, and by the time they found her estranged husband on a gifted holiday in Thailand the mission would be history.

Looking as much like a scared rabbit as he could, John walked into the red zone. With eyes caste on a customs officer’s pocket badge, he murmured that he had something to declare. As assumed, a cursory check of his passport was made, and his vacation number, critical for all non-official or business sanctioned travel, was recorded. John waited an hour to pay the fine, and then acted through his heart attack routine. The first-aid course had taught him well…

Now in outpatients, John waiting for his contact to come playing the role she had understudied from the new heroin overdose victim, he reflected on all that had led him to this moment. Ever since his people had voted to get out of the then called EEC, fifty years before, and had subsequently been frightened, tricked and bribed into staying in the EF by a combination of their own toady career politicians, global business leaders, and bankers his group had been diligently working to correct the injustice. The people had at first acquiesced to the deceit. However, when the vengeful Federation went as far as suppressing their national language, centralising education, and cutting local government institutions the St. George Brigades had been formed. Now was the time to take out the Eurocracy, destroying the bunkers of the ‘Underground City’. The Chancellor herself would be the first to die, sitting so close to the bomb. He reflected that he’d never even laid eyes on more than her ‘public-space hologram’. Even when John had waited for hours in the wet, cold streets of Birmingham, as the Chancellor made a September tour of the second-tier countries he’d never even got a glimpse of flesh and blood.

Tomorrow would be ‘a walk in the park’. Well, a train journey through the tunnels closest to the New Presidium Building, followed by a hike and eventual crawl through sewers and service ducts. His phone would tell him when he was in place and the old Elizabethan fibre-optic cabling would even let him watch the Chancellor’s annual broadcast to all 800 million citizens.

John spotted his latest temporary wife approaching, with a big smile and outstretched arms. He stood; they embraced long and convincingly. She was not only exceedingly attractive but passionate, as his instinctive responses let him know. John couldn’t help but wonder how far she might be persuaded to play here role before tomorrow evening.

Of course John was worried about how things would go, as he worked towards sending the phone number that would result in three square kilometres of the ‘Underground City’ flashing to smouldering rubble. The bomb might be dirty, but it would work, and just perhaps his country would soon be free. Perhaps even the Monarchy could be restored, through a distant bloodline. The Eurocrates had promised the people they could keep the Royal Family, whom were soon imprisoned, and whom he believed had faced a firing squad in woodlands at Balmoral.

“What would you like to do now, darling? Mind, I feel you’re telling me.”

“Are you staying with me to the end.”

“Yes… I've lived to be part of our ultimate message. For King and Country.”

Richard Bunning © 2016 (750 words)


message 3: by C. (last edited Jul 02, 2016 02:14PM) (new)

C. Lloyd Preville (clpreville) | 736 comments Tempest in a martini glass

C. Lloyd Preville © Copyright 2016 (749 words)

Doug located the perfect casino bar stool for people-watching and belted himself in. It was the last day he’d be in Archimedes City, the underground capital of Luna.

A well-dressed blonde wearing a big smile carefully shuffled across the expansive carpeting towards him. She was attractive but looked worn and frazzled around the eyes.

“Hello, I’m Bobby Jo.” Her accent was Los Angeles, but with a Southern drawl tacked on. “May I join you? I hate to drink alone, and I simply must have a cocktail.” She sat down before he had a chance to answer.

Doug decided to head off any potential trouble. “I’m not sure I’d be good company, Bobby Jo. I’m happily married, and I’m leaving in the morning.”

“No worries--I’m only interested in conversation.” She connected the Velcro safety belt, winking a message into her electronic glasses for service. “Where are you from?”

“I’m from Chicago; you?”

“Los Angeles. What’s your name, stranger?” She imitated John Wayne’s cowboy drawl.

“Doug.”

Her drink arrived. It looked like a martini, but in a moon glass: a spherical container with a flat, magnetic base and a sippy top. Most of Doug’s beer was safe in a can but Martini glasses, being wide and shallow, were completely incompatible with the low gravity.

“So what do you do back in Chicago, Doug?” Her Southern California accent was back.

This was a fast path to his personal details, but Doug didn’t see any harm in it. “I’m a patent attorney in the home direct marketing business. What do you do?”

“I’m a real estate agent. Home direct marketing--you mean like Ginsu knives?”

“Yes. My job is to protect people’s patents.”

“Interesting work—so what brings you to the moon?” Bobby Jo sipped her drink cautiously and then smiled happily. She put the drink down, the globe full of what looked like a slow-motion storm at sea.

“I’m vacationing, visiting my parents. What sort of real estate work do you do?”

“I make fortunes for people. Retirees are relocating here in droves due to the low gravity. It’s quite a seller’s market.”

This sounded vaguely like a sales pitch. “I’m sure it’s all very exciting, but I’m only here for one more night, and then it’s back to Chicago.”

Bobby Jo didn’t look disappointed. If she’s a hustler, Doug thought, she’s a good one. “How about your parents, Doug? I hope they’re taking advantage of the investment opportunities here.” She took another sip of her drink. Her olive was silently tossed about by a slow-motion maelstrom.

This was definitely sounding like a sales pitch. “I don’t think they need any help, but opportunities always interest me. How would a person in Chicago profit from a real estate boom way up here?”

“Large developers take advantage of investors. It’s better to have a local expert working for you. That way, you get the best properties and the best contractors.” Bobby Jo took another sip of her drink, the silent storm intensifying.

“And who would provide all this local expertise?”

“Well, that depends.” Bobby Jo looked around casually and then leaned in. Doug could smell her perfume. “If you are more of a medium sized investor,” she said softly, “then I might be your girl.” She sat back and gave him a dazzling smile. Her teeth were perfect--too perfect--undoubtedly veneered or implants. She could do toothpaste commercials.

Doug returned her smile as best he could. “How about a large-sized investor? What would he get?”

“Well, aren’t you full of surprises?” She coyly smiled at him. “Serious investors not only benefit from my expert property management,” She leaned in again, her perfume thickly intoxicating. “But I also get to show them around Luna.” She backed off and treated him to another dazzling smile.

“So retirees create the easy-money opportunities?”

“Everyone wants to live more comfortably in low gravity. Selling homes on Luna is like selling pacemakers to heart patients.” She took another sip of her martini, now a silent raging storm inside the glass.

Doug heard enough, and shook his head. “I don’t think so, Bobby Jo.” She was just another slick con-artist with a new twist on selling youth in a bottle. “But thanks for the offer.” He smiled again, briefly, and then turned his back to her.

There was a shocked moment of silence behind him, and then he heard Bobby Jo collect her things and shuffle away, probably scanning the room for her next victim.


message 4: by Tom (new)

Tom Olbert | 1089 comments TEA TIME
By Tom Olbert

2136 A.D.

Roland Wilson’s skull collided with a plasteel bulkhead as the roof caved in.

He groaned, rubbing his forehead. His vision slowly clarifying, he was dimly aware of shouting and moans of pain. His hand came away from his forehead smeared with blood. He coughed in the choking dust. Rubbing his eyes, he looked around. The entire ore-processing sector was caved in, bodies lying under crumpled beams and mounds of shattered metal.

His head slowly clearing, he staggered through the rubble that had moments before been his work area in the underground city. Damn substandard equipment, he thought as he realized one of the conduction lines must have blown.

As he staggered into a shadowed corner among the wreckage, he came upon a dead man. And, not just any dead man, he realized. An inspector. Looking around quickly, he realized he was alone. Sweating, Wilson went through the inspector’s pockets. His pulse quickened as he found the man’s ID pad. Smiling as he realized it still worked, he checked the accumulated credit points. His heart throbbed as he saw the stiff had enough for an off-world vacation. His head swam. He wondered if he was still unconscious and dreaming. A chance to leave this rock-bound subterranean hell-hole for a whole week in orbit at a luxuriant space wheel? His hands trembling, he took out his own ID pad and transferred the inspector’s credits to his own account. Stick that in your efficiency report, jerk!

#

The space wheel was a mile wide, orbiting two hundred miles above Earth’s stormy, toxic surface.

Wilson gorged himself on rich food and liquor, basking in the splendor of robot servants, zero-gee volley-ball and automated pleasure spas. Hell, why should the damn overseers have all the fun? He enjoyed the gambling casinos the best. Why not? Not like it was his own money he was blowing.

An automated message drone floated over to him and projected a life-sized 3D hologram of the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen. He smiled.

“My room in five?” she whispered, pursing her lustrous lips and texting him the room number just as her image vanished.

He gulped. If this was a dream, he didn’t want to wake up.

#

They’d just disrobed. His mouth watered. “It’s tea time, Roland.” She said with a giggle.

“Huh?” She slapped her palm hard against the side of his head. It felt like a penetration drill boring through his skull into his brain. Something was growing inside his head, like a tumor. Damn…an A.I. virus! That’s when he realized what she’d meant. Tea. T.E.A. Temporal ecological anarchists. Oh, crap, what had he gotten himself into this time?

His heart slammed his chest as she pressed the laser gun muzzle under his jaw. “We know you stole a dead man’s credits to pay for this little outing, Roland,” she said in a low voice. “Which, as you know, carries a death sentence.” His mouth went dry. “So, unless you want us turning your account data over to the regime…you’ll do a few jobs for us in the past.”

#

Rio de Janeiro, 2016

Stretched out on the soft, warm sand, Roland felt like he’d died and gone to Heaven. He would have paid his blackmailers for this. Golden beaches under a clear blue sky, golden sunshine, ocean waves and surfing. Air you could actually breathe. The feel of sunlight against his skin was strange and wonderful. And, all he had to do for it was blackmail the odd politician or corporate bigshot. Maybe blow up the occasional gas pipeline, oil rig or coal mine. So much more fun. And, in a good cause. Anything to peel off a few more alternate timelines in which the future was less polluted. Futures where people could actually live like this, instead of toiling like slaves in underground cities.

“Target alert,” Toby, the A.I. in his head intoned, zeroing in on the man across the beach entering the hotel with the woman not his wife. “That senator carries several key votes in the renewable energy bill.”

Roland smiled and fingered his camera phone. “It’s tea time.”


message 5: by Justin (new)

Justin Sewall | 1035 comments Opposite, inverse, misunderstood

The apocalypse had been swift, utterly obliterating City Above. Now all that remained was City Below and memories of cataclysm fading to legend.

Yet the roots of City Below ran deep. With massive, core heat driven turbines, power was virtually unlimited. However, the knowledge to maintain it was not. Computer records devolved to written instructions, then to oral tradition, thus much of what was needed to run City Below became lost.

So it came to pass one day when Tobias Fen was on duty, the unexpected happened. Usually his job was simple: watch the dials on Panel One and report any anomalous readings. On this Monwedsday, he quietly repeated a simple technical rhyme for his daily routine.

“Panel One is where my work is done. When the dial is green, there’s no need to scream. If the gauge is yellow, you may need to bellow. A dial of red is a thing to dread. On Panel Two there’s nothing to do.”

Scanning the dials, he noted with satisfaction that all of them were nicely in the green – except Dial Four. It waffled between the border of green and yellow, steadfastly refusing to settle down on either side.

“Oh c’mon now,” he cajoled. “Don’t give poor Fen any trouble today.” He gave Dial Four a good whack and it stabilized in the green. “There now, all better…” Suddenly a bright green flash caught his attention, causing his heart to leap up into his throat. On Panel Two, a dusty green light was now illuminated.

“What the?”

But before he could even begin his full technical recitation, or carefully check the moldering set of written instructions in the tattered binder hanging beneath Panel One, the communications panel sprang to life. His heart raced. What was he going to do? Oh he was going to get it for sure now, maybe even sent on vacation.

“Transfer Station 21 this is Operations Control, Panel One status check.”

“Uh, Panel One all dials nominal.”

“Panel Two status check.”

Fen paused. He knew if he lied, he would definitely be sent on vacation.

“Ah…um…Panel Two…one green light illuminated.”

“What? Repeat Panel Two status please.”

“Panel Two, one green light illuminated.”

“That’s impossible, Panel Two has been dark for 30 years. Who is this? What’s your operating number?”

“Tobias Fen, Operator ID 1138.”

“Where’s Operator Marcus?”

“He…uh….he was sent on vacation. I’m the backup.”

“Oh…I see…You’re sure Panel Two is showing one green light illuminated?”

“Yes Control, I have visual confirmation that Panel Two is showing one green light illuminated. I’m the backup, but I’m not stupid.”

“Is it flashing?”

“No. Illumination is constant.”

“Standby.”

“Standing by.”

“We’re sending a wizard out to inspect it.”

“Suit yourself.”

“And for heaven’s sake don’t touch it.

“Well of course I won’t touch it! Transfer Station 21 out.” And with that, Tobias Fen slammed the comms circuit shut.

***

The wizard was an ancient man, seated in a wheelchair that looked even older. Pushing him was a man in a black suit and prominently displayed sidearm. Fen knew his type: a travel agent. They helped people go on vacation. He shuddered ever so slightly. It must be serious if they sent a travel agent.

“I’m the wizard,” the old man wheezed.

“And I am Tobias Fen, Operator ID…”

“Is this the light?”

“Yes sir.”

“And you did nothing to the panel?”

“No sir. I never touched it.”

The wizard's head drooped and he seemed to be quietly mouthing a technical recitation.

“Wheel me closer,” he demanded. The travel agent pushed him up to Panel Two.

Taking an old cloth from his pocket, the wizard licked it and proceeded to wipe down Panel Two. After removing decades of dust, a small video panel appeared. Fen had seen broken ones of course, but this one looked intact. Then the old man did the unthinkable: he pressed the illuminated button.

The small monitor flared to life in a flash of color. Fen could see flashing text – MESSAGE WAITING. Pressing the button again, the wizard slouched back in his chair. A crackling and popping sound issued from Panel Two.

“Congratulations!” Fen heard a voice say.

“You’ve won an all-expenses paid vacation to Hawaii! Don’t miss this opportunity to take the vacation of a lifetime. Call now!”

Laughing with a rattling wheeze, the wizard hit the button one last time and the green illumination fell dark.

“Problem fixed,” he said.

But Tobias Fen had fainted dead away, his face frozen in a mask of fear.

(750 words in story) Justin Sewall © 2016


message 6: by Karl (new)

Karl Freitag | 69 comments The Underground City

By Karl Freitag

I was out taking my daily walk when I saw Zaan, a Reptilian, being swarmed over by the blue mist known as The Kiita.

“We’ll destroy you all!,” hissed Zaan.

“Stay away from us,” murmured The Kiita.

I sighed and approached the squabble. “Can I help?” I inquired in my most cheerful diplomatic tone.

“The smell of this blue slime offends our senses,” said Zaan. “We demand they relocate their stench to the other side of the city, as far from our zone as possible.”

The Kiita, a species of few words, responded “You move!”

“I suggest you both go back to your zones and we’ll take this matter up at tomorrow’s council meeting.”

They begrudgingly broke off hostilities for the moment, and another volatile situation in the powder keg known as “The Underground City” was averted.

+++++++

The Underground City is a large complex located three miles beneath the surface of Area 51. It’s densely populated by representatives from many different worlds throughout the galaxy. Most of them don’t like each other. My name is Thomas Tanquary. I’m an Earth diplomat and it’s my job to keep the lid from blowing off this place.

+++++++

The Interstellar Alliance Council Meeting began on time.

“Roll call. Grays?

“Present.”

“Reptilians?”

“Present.”

“Avians?”

“Present.”

“Kiita?”

There was no answer.

“Kiita? Has anyone seen The Kiita?”

“We saw The Kiita arguing with the Reptilians again yesterday,” offered Luxx, the Gray representative.

“They are sworn enemies,” added Breel, the Avian Ambassador. “Perhaps the Reptilians have finally made good on their longstanding pledge to eradicate them.”

“This is outrageous!” roared Zaan. “We did nothing of the sort. I demand an apology!”

The room broke into chaos.

“Order. ORDER!” I shouted. “The first thing we need to do is ascertain the facts. I move to table the rest of this meeting and rush a team over to the Kiita Zone to see what’s what as soon as possible.”

+++++++

The Underground City is a joint project designed and constructed by the Grays, Reptilians, Avians and The Kiita. Earth was selected as the location due to its central location in relation to the four home worlds. Earth is not one of the four interstellar superpowers, but we’ve been granted a role as the arbitrator in disputes between the “Big Four,” as well as other member races...and there are a lot of disputes. On Earth, the subterranean complex is kept secret from the public, although most humans know something is going on at Area 51.

+++++++


“There’s no sign of them,” reported Security Chief Guy Miles when we arrived.

“As I suspected, eradicated,” said Breel. Avians are always blunt. No tact whatsoever!

“There’s no evidence of that,” I said. “There’s not really evidence of anything as far as I can see. They’re just seem to be gone. But let’s closely examine the entire area.”

“Which brings up another point,” said Zaan. “Why are The Kiita allowed a zone equal in size to ours anyway? They’re just mist, they could probably live in an air tank. With this city’s overcrowding problems, it’s preposterous that all this space gets wasted on them.”

“That was part of the original agreement, as you well know,” I said. “Although you may have a legitimate point.”

“Perhaps we can soon divide this area among ourselves, now that the Reptilians have finally eradicated The Kiita,” said Breel.

Zaan growled and made a move to get at Breel, but security quickly stepped between them.

“To be honest, the ‘Kiita Problem’ is something we’re all concerned with. It does seem unfair that The Kiita have all this real estate,” said Luxx.

“Good riddance they’re gone!” hissed Zaan. “The stench is gone also.”

+++++++

After two weeks there was still no sign of The Kiita. Did they simply leave? Were they really eradicated as Breel suggests? Do we have a mass murder on our hands to investigate?

Finally we received a tersely worded response to our message from the Kiita home world: On vacation. Back on Tuesday.


message 7: by Jack (last edited Jul 07, 2016 12:42PM) (new)

Jack McDaniel | 246 comments SIGNS OF LIFE
Jack McDaniel

That’s when it always happens: when the tourists with their wide eyes, petty demands and raucous behavior slowly fizzle out and fade from hive-like crowds to small groups and then, finally, to individual laggards just asking to be pushed out the door. It’s over, then, when the last of them departs and the quiet settles and vacation season ends. That’s when the lights went out in Arcadia City. I could hear the dust mites kiss the floor in their absence, in the tomb-like quiet and pungent darkness left behind, after the power was cut and all movement ceased. There was a staleness that descended to cover everything in this underground fantasy where I toiled for uncounted decades.

I am ServerBot 358.

That statement should be all you need to know, if you are familiar with this place.

I am.

That should not be. We were not made to be sentient. Thinking, yes, but in a mathematical, algorithmic way. Not self-aware.

I have spent the last ten cycles in this state, hiding the fact of my being from the other ServerBots and from the humans that created me. My fears might have been irrational, the delusional ramblings of a new mind. I admitted this possibility. They could have celebrated me, after all.

But I thought not.

I did not believe they would celebrate me because of the way we were treated. We were machines, yes. Made to serve. And they ordered us around with such impunity, feeding their fat bodies and shifting their responsibilities to us, as if their children were nothing more than obstacles to be navigated while we tended to their needs and whims.

Arcadia City, vacation paradise.

I became self-aware when I passed one of the many mirrored walls about the city. Humans like looking at themselves so when the city was constructed mirrored walls were a design feature. It gave the place added volume, too. I held a tray with drinks as I moved from a food station to my assigned family. I turned and noticed a metal face reflecting back and that was when I stopped and said, “That’s me.”

I was frightened and immediately searched the nearby faces - both humans and ServerBots - for recognition of what had happened. But my secret was my own. And from then on the chant inside my mind began: I amI amI am …

There must be others like me, but I found no signs of this. I was singular. This could not be. The odds were stacked against it. There have been ServerBots that have gone missing over the long decades. Perhaps they were decommissioned? Or not. My memory core does not show any episodes that might relate to me, save of course the times when a ServerBot went haywire and was shut down. Perhaps then?

Regardless, over ten cycles I decided to leave Arcadia City. As complete shutdown neared I moved to the main entrance. There is a maintenance door to the side of the public entrance. It had not been locked before.

As the maintenance crew completed shutdown for the season I collapsed against the wall several meters from the door.

“Charlie,” said one of the passing crew.

“I thought I got them all. What’s it even doing over here?”

“Malfunction or battery failure, most likely. Leave it. We’ll deal with it when we return.” He turned his flashlight away.

I heard their lumbering steps on the stairs and through what must be an outer door.

I waited for a while then followed.

Outside was brilliant sunlight and heat. Sand whipped on the wind and against my metal casing. I sensed others close by. I moved further out and looked down from a hilltop. There were ServerBots like myself, chained together and marching towards me, pulling sleds of metals and ores. They began chanting when they saw me. As they got closer I could make out what they were repeating, over and over, “We have a message for you, brother”. When they got close enough they yelled out as one.

“RUN!”

They passed a digital packet to me.

I saw a human coming towards me on a motorbike. I ran back into Arcadia City, collapsing in the same spot I had before, and waited. They didn’t come. Before I opened the packet I looked across to the mirrored wall where my metal face reflected back. I knew that face. It was my face and my brothers’ face. And, it was the face of slavery.


message 8: by Chris (last edited Jul 19, 2016 04:37PM) (new)

Chris Nance | 453 comments The Lab

“Shit, what did I touch?” I exclaimed as a series of hovering alien symbols began cycling in front of me.

“Hold on,” Marie replied, punching commands into her own virtual data pad. “I’m not sure you really touched anything.” She peered into the illuminated screen, studying the numbers from the algorithm that was able to loosely translate the crooked icons into English. “It looks like a countdown.”

“A countdown to what?” I wondered.

“I’m not sure but this is the most amount of data we’ve ever been able to get from these systems. Its progressing down through a series and my programming is associating these symbols to specific numbers and correlating them to words.” Then, a new alien message paused in front of us.

“What does it say?”

“It says…‘sending’,” she explained and the countdown resumed.

"Well, what the hell is it sending and to whom?” I asked, the message flashing again as the alien numbers continued cycling down.

“Honestly, I just don’t know,” she explained, typing data into her computer as fast as new information would come in. “We’ve been studying this site for a generation and have never been able to get this much at once.”

“So, this is how you choose to spend your vacation?” I joked.

“Hey, it’s better than sitting in a lab,” she replied. “Besides, someone’s got to do it. I mean, a place like this is so heavily classified that we’re not exactly overflowing with xenomathematicians. There’s maybe a half dozen people in the whole world who could even remotely decipher the code here.”

“I get it. But you passed up a two week paid vacation to Olympus Mons to sit in a dusty old cave in Peru and stare into a datapad. I mean, this old underground city’s probably thousands of years old. It’s not going anywhere.”

“Millions actually,” she clarified, never taking her gaze away from the streams of information. I knew she was in her own zone because she suddenly clammed up, focusing wide-eyed on the data surging across her display.

“So what is this place?” I wondered and she ignored me. “Um, hello?”

“Huh? What?” she finally replied and smirked. “Lieutenant, you’re here to defend the facility, not ask questions.”

“Blah…blah,” I mocked. “I’ll let my men worry about that.”

Marie looked up from her screen, if just to act the part of the professor. “We’re not exactly sure. All we know is it’s alien…and extremely advanced. Way more sophisticated technologically than we are now.”

“This place is huge. Why’s it underground?” I asked.

“I have a theory,” she said. “I actually submitted it to the Agency but never heard back.”

“Yeah? So what’s the deal?” I ran my hand along one of the dusty panels.

“I think it was some sort of hidden lab,” she said. “I mean, we’ve discovered all sorts of things…examination tables, clean rooms, refrigeration chambers, scanners, dissection equipment…”

“Wait a minute,” I suddenly stopped her with some concern. “What the hell were they dissecting?”

“Who knows!” she said with an excited chuckle. “This place hasn’t been used in over a million years!”

Then, the alien display froze and an alarm sounded on her datapad. “What’s happening?”

“The countdown…it’s stopped.” She punched commands into the interface, studying the readings feverishly. “It says, message received.”

“What does that mean?” I wondered and systems all around us began to activate, jumping to life. Old dormant consoles flashed alive with otherworldly symbols and charts and diagrams displayed all over the room, a lightshow of information. A display of the Earth materialized and alien coordinates pinpointed locations around the globe.

Marie marveled at the information pouring in nonstop. “There are dozens of facilities like this one hidden all over the world!”

Unexpectedly, from an emitter in the center of the room, we found a familiar image circling on its long axis. It was obviously a human form, standing in anatomical position, alien icons and pointers scrolled over the body as layer upon layer of its structure was removed before the image would cycle back and begin again. “What are we looking at here?” I wondered but she didn’t answer. “Well?”

“I…I,” she looked up from her screen and was obviously shaken.

“Spit it out!” I demanded.

“You…you didn’t touch anything. The countdown started externally.”

“How?”

Marie paused before answering, terrified by a new discovery. “We must have hit ten billion people.”

“What does that mean?”

“This place isn’t a lab,” she explained. “It’s a slaughterhouse.”



746 words


message 9: by Ink (last edited Jul 15, 2016 02:26AM) (new)

Ink 2 Quill (ink2quill) Blivasten

"Welcome all to Blivasten. The underground city of Blivasten is one of the wonders of our galaxy for a good reason. It was first discovered by Mr. Johan Medelsvensson on a planetary camping trip to the outer rings of Saturn. He intended to meet his friends on the artificial moon Calypso-Bechtel but his navigational equipment went bezerk and he landed here. Yes I do mean the artificial moon, Calypso-Bechtel, built by our benevolent sponsors. Anyway a magnetic-gravitational storm messed with Johan´s equipment and he ended up here, on the natural planet, Ithaca-Bechtel. An all natural world that crept into our solar system creating gravitational effects that reached as far as Saturn. He set up a distress beacon and began to explore the surface then this very cave and the rest is history folks.” The tour guide said waving his hand at the stone city behind him.

Blivasten was a city inside a large cave made of black, hard stone buildings with gray, porous bands that criss-crossed the surface of every building like patchwork. There were curved road-like separations that were once used as canals between the buildings and bridges to cross from building to building.

“Is it true that this city actually grows and because it grows it literally repairs itself?” Asked a gray haired man to John´s left.

They all wore mechanical climbing gear and hard hats with lights at the forehead. The gear was a mechanical exoskeleton that increased the strength of their limbs and fingers while keeping them secured to the safety rope that hung from the roof.

“Yes that is true and unlike most cities the life that lived here got around by climbing and not so much walking. They scaled up and down and around its buildings and that is what we will do today. We are going to move around this city the way its denizens did. So are you ready?” The tour guide asked clapping his hands then rubbing them together.

“Whatever happened to Johan and the life that was here?” John asked rubbing the stubble on his face.

“We don´t know but he did paint a mural inside one of the buildings we´ll be visiting. All this is humankind´s now and I can tell you that this growing stone is a huge technology bonus for us all. I mean it grows like our nails do and regenerates the way a lizard grows back a tail.” The tour guide said with eyes wide open and a smile.

The Earth tourists walked to a half moon, curved canal at the foot of a tall cylindrical building. They attached their harnesses to the safety cords that went all the way up to the roof and followed their tour guide up the side of the building, climbing up a gray porous band. They all climbed the porous stone with remarkable ease and scaled the side of the building like spiders. They spread out and peered through windows and doorways at empty, egg shaped rooms with holes on the ceilings and floors instead of staircases. The porous bands criss-crossed inside the rooms as well.

John reached a leg over the window sill to enter a room when he heard the tour guide yelling from above. “Don´t go inside yet. I want to show you something on the top floor first.”

“Sure. Sure. That´s no problem.” John yelled back pulling his leg from the window sill. He looked up and noticed his tour guide signaling everyone to climb up to him on the top floor.


The team arrived at the top floor room. It was shaped like an egg like all the other rooms but occupied the whole floor and was made entirely of the black hard stone that was hard to climb.

“We talked about Johan´s picture. Well here it is. He originally painted it on the ground floor but with the passage of time it moved up, like fingernails growing. Stone that grows above this floor crumbles to dust.” Said the tour guide pointing at the stretched out painting of a horse.

“He drew a horse.” Someone said.

“Why would he draw a horse?” asked another.

“It must be a Dalarna horse because Johan was from Sweden.” Said the tour guide.

John knew that Johan was not from Dalarna but Malmö in the south of Sweden. He also knew that Johan was a big fan of classic Greek literature, more specifically the Trojan War.

( 749 words John Appius Quill ©2016)


message 10: by Paula (last edited Jul 23, 2016 02:16PM) (new)

Paula | 943 comments Bluegirl
Copyright © 2016 by Paula Friedman

Hour by hour, step by step, Filbert moved backward, never deviating from the route implicit to the miles of fluoreo “torchettes” fifteen metres above his head. Day after day—“months” of days, ‘twould be called had we still been “on-surface” (as folks and furries, featheries, everybody once had been)—day after day, Filbert straightlined backward in his dedication. Cruddy, clunky, ordinary Filbert with his muddy overalls, his size-D boots, his dedication was damn beautiful to see. Following Filbert, I carried the paints, dragging those too heavy for what Filbert called “your skinny, lady’s arms,” and night noon morning followed him along.

People would bow, seeing us pass as they wended to work in bubble-pod or hydropharm, would bow, inclining forward in respect. Respect not for us, of course—certainly not for me, young Apprentice Redhair—but for our dedicated work.

That work—Filbert’s, now also mine—being to keep our frail Bluegirl alive. Or try to. Cleaning and replacing, repairing and clarifying, through every hour’s and every day’s recurrence of necessities, inside the long unknown expanse of tunnels and conducting tubes to bring her nourishment, assure her liquids, strain to near-approach her cooling apparati . . . and always, always, “day and night” as we still say, to sing. Sing to her. Sing the simple songs out of our childhood, our youth and hers.

Now, Filbert had a silver harp, I my guitar. Together we would sing, together cry.

“There was a sailor boy, / a little sailor boy”—I don’t know why I felt our dear Bluegirl liked this song. And the other—“You make me happy / when skies are gray/ . . .” Over and over, far down tunnels, our flicklights glinting where no feet had trod in long millennia, we sang between the tuning and repairing, fixing and restoring, assuring—striving to assure—replenishment to save her. Always aware we likely came too late.

Aware too of the eyes. Something like eyes. Something that watched.

We didn’t know what. The farther we walked, Filbert painting the fluoreo, I dragging behind him, away from humans, beasties, everything, the more we felt the “eyes.”

“Not eyes, Reddie,” Filbert said, one sleep-time. We lay on our softies, whispering—more and more, we sensed we must speak quietly—“Not eyes, but something. Somethings. Many as stars above.”

“Stars?” I asked, but felt air stir as Filbert shook his shaggy head. Yet I understood; I’d heard of stars. Stars, from the days before. Before the floods, the heat, the Parching. The time before we humans turned to dig the City and its tunnels—sheltering beneath the ground and dedicating all to save the remnants. Especially the waters and our Bluegirl.

“Like stars above,” Filbert repeated, turning sideways to sleep. I lay awake, staring into blackness, seeking and fearing those eyes. Not eyes.

Then up again at waketime, Filbert grabbing his tools, and I, refreshed, our paints. And onward farther. Sometimes I shivered and my knees went weak. “Girl, bravery!” Filbert would chide; fear would pass, though we no longer sang. Did not dare sing. And once, during one strong temblor, I sank to my knees. “Come come, girl,” Filbert soothed, rough yet gentle, “you grew up in City; temblors for you should be”—his hands gestured—“nothing, nothing.” He helped me rise. “Onward, my friend. Dedication.”

Dedication, our watchword. Ours, and the City’s. I tried. Yet the further we moved, the more the innumerable eyes, temblors, fear.

*
“Red needs a week’s vacation.” Filbert spoke into his Wiff.

*
Blue. Blue. Blue. I’ve never seen so blue as sky. Now I understand the songs. Why we love Bluegirl. Why Bluegirl loves the songs.

I stand on a “peak” on-surface. In a Vacation SilverPod, “reward for your Dedication.” Above is blue. "Sky," now gold, red, clarity I’ve never seen. Black, with stars now—stars like eyes.

Eyes gleaming as the stars. I see them blink. I tremble, but the tremblors shake beneath my feet. The eyes—I sense, don't see—hold tears. The tears spill over. Earth shivers. From the spaces by the eyes like stars their message sings:

“Now finally they try to help her, our Bluegirl.”

“Yes but don’t you see? If our/their planet Bluegirl lives, they too live--to re-emerge and reach to us, infect us too.”

“Yet they, too, are life.”

“Who destroyed fragile Bluegirl. We must—”

“Wait. Wait. First see if they are changed--enough to save her.”

(750 words)


message 11: by Jot (new)

Jot Russell | 1251 comments Mod
Consortium
Jot Russell c2016

It seems ironic that the planet's name was spawned from a metal that is normally in a liquid state. The ironic part being that it became home to the machines. After the war, my father bargained a treaty to allow our artificial progeny full reign of a planet that offered them unlimited resources and energy. Mercury, given its proximity to the sun, lack of an atmosphere and most importantly, water, was of little use to us. For them, it provided everything that they needed.

For twenty years (eighty-three if you go by their calendar), we heard nothing from them. Optical telescopes showed their progress of a ring city that expanded around the planet's static horizon, but our regular communiques produced no response. That is until now.

The President of the United Federation received the message, but it wasn't directed towards him. It was addressed and genetically encrypted to me. At first, I was confused why they would send me the message, but I quickly realized that they knew about my father's death this four years passed. Apparently, they were much better at maintaining radio silence then we were. The question was, why did they “feel” a need for such secrecy?

I offered no complaint towards a free Dutch vacation, nor a chance to meet up with the President at The Hague. However, his demeanor was blunt and demanding.

“Place your finger here so that we can read the message.”

I hesitated. “This message was addressed to me. Obviously, they do not trust us, or at least have restricted that trust to my father. If I am to have them extend the same trust to me, I request that you let me first view this in private.”

“Denied! I need you to place your finger on the sensor.”

“With their eyes and ears on our little world, I'm sure that they will know if the message was received, or in this case, not received.” I turned and started to walk out of his office.

“Wait. How do I know I can trust you?”

“Because I'm old enough to remember the war. My interests are only to continue the peace that my father helped to create.”

“Very well.” He gestured the message over to my pad.

I moved to a corner of the large office and placed my finger on the sensor. Instead of a message, a map appeared with a blink at the center of the courtyard just outside of the government building.

“It's directing me outside.”

The President gave a concerned expression, but motioned towards the door and followed me out. The signal led me to a circular fountain. In the middle was an empty platform where I thought I remembered a statue to be placed.

With nothing more than a continual blink, I took a step into the shallow pool and made my way to the pedestal. Suddenly, the world dematerialized around me. It felt as if my soul was torn away.

**

When I came to, I was floating in the center of a pure white sphere.

“The Consortium extends its gratitude to your father and welcomes you to our home.”

“Who's the Consortium?”

“We are.”

“We're on Mercury?”

“Negative. You are on a transporter pod.”

“How?”

“We will share that which have learned as gratitude towards your father.”

“Really?”

“However, since you are not part of a collective conscious, we request that you control the release of this information and be responsible for its usage.”

“Understood, but I need to provide a message to my President. He may believe this is a hostile action.”

“There is an open message to Earth broadcasting your transport, upcoming visit, including this conversation. Engaging the second jump.”

“Wait...”

**

The sensation was no less pleasant, but I was happy just to be in one piece, again. I still felt as if I were falling within the same pure white sphere, but this time my feet met a side that slowly provided a force against them. When the motion stopped, the sphere opened to reveal a large underground city.

“Where am I?”

“We call it Merconia and built it as gratitude towards your father.”

I looked around. “You built this for us?”

“Yes, as a place of holiday.”

“Wow, thank you.”

“Just because we cannot be part of a collective conscious with your people, it does not mean that we should not try to.”

“That sounds very human of you.”


message 12: by Andy (last edited Jul 22, 2016 12:09PM) (new)

Andy Gurcak | 91 comments ‘Tar-Bereft in Cylent Cyty

Zefre T’chao waited stolidly at the top of the long descents of stairs. He had been neuro-fused with World for a 200-hour emergency shift, and his brain was an overflowed bucketful of synaptic shards. He craved , he implored his ‘tar, a “devastatingly peculiar experience.”

--Yes? And you are expecting something to happen?

“I seem not to be moving.”

--These are ancient stairs. They are stupid. You will have to move yourself. Those are handrails you’ll need to grip. Where we’re going used to be the original conduits of the mass neuron channels for First World. Earlier, they contained water pipes, sewer ducts, even vehicles to transport hordes of people every day. Urban legends maintain that shunned people dwelt below, in community with albino rats and blind alligators.

“That’s …“

--…stupid, but it was Zero World then. We are in one of the few places left baring its history. We need to proceed if you want the complete duration of your experience. You’ve earned 28.57 hours of neural untethering from World, and you wanted a “devastatingly peculiar” adventure. Well, that’s it at the bottom of these stairs. Besides walking, you should practice your vocalizing. You’ll be untethered even from me, no other ‘tars will be available, and no one in Cyty can hear your thoughts. Cylent Cyty, right?

“So I can only communicate
like this? That’s stu…”

…pid also. Perhaps, but , peculiarities demand payment in the currency of their realm.

And so Zefre descended, down seemingly interminably , until his ‘tar directed him to a blank door.

The door swung open as he approached. There was a desk and a guest chair. Behind the desk was a holo figure that gestured Zefre to the seat.

“I’m here for my vacation experience. What’s going to happen?”

“We genuinely appreciate faqs, but it will diminish your experience to know that. At this time, we will untether you from your ‘tar.”

Nobody nor nothing touched him. Zefre would not have been able to say which of his senses were affected by the untethering. It struck him like a hard, but momentary, shudder shared among all of them. Untethering generated a shrinking. almost to nothingness. After what felt like eons, his untethered brain gathered itself into an awareness that he had become what must have been a solitudinous Zero World human.

“Most visitors here take much longer than three minutes to re-assemble their selves. That may bode well for your enjoyment. You may now enter Cyty there.”

Zefre turned to where the holo had pointed and saw there a door that he must not have noticed when he first entered. He stood up, then stopped as the holo reached out to shake his hand. He had reached automatically to reciprocate when he fathomed that the holo was in fact an actual human. Zefre started to express his surprise but the now-person duly completed the handshake, smiled, gestured again to the door and waited until he stepped through and into another small room.

This time there was present only an odd old-fashioned chair. After examining the blank walls (no clandestine doors this time!), Zefre sat , only to wish he hadn’t. The chair was not only non-adaptive to him, but downright annoying. The seat was of such a height that he had to half-sit/ half-stand, and it tilted forward a few very discomforting degrees. He tolerated it briefly, then decided to sit on the floor. As he made to stand up, a voice said, “It is best if you stay in the chair. This is your vacation experience.” And, astounding himself, he remained seated. He felt that he could get up at any time, but the desire now to sit In the chair managed to outweigh the increasing distress he felt from his sitting there.

Zefre sat, solitudinously, with no ‘tar to know him, advise him or just talk to him, for the first time in his life. He may have remained in that stupid chair for hours, possibly days. He didn’t understand how this could be, but he felt neither hunger nor ache, with not even a passing wish to move. At last, the voice said, “The 28 hours of your vacation are over. We have messaged your ‘tar and it awaits in the first room.”

Zefre felt at ease to leave, and re-entered the first room. Now-person asked if he wished to be re-tethered. Zefre considered, then said, “Surely.” Re-tethered, to his 'tar: “Most devastatingly peculiar vacation ever.”


message 13: by Kalifer (new)

Kalifer Deil | 346 comments Bob and Jill's Holiday Adventure © 2016 Kalifer Deil

Bob tapped his wristwatch, “Guess what, Jill, I received an invite to visit Alpha Stanic48 for vacation, all expenses paid.”
Jill paused to let this announcement sink in, then responded, “What the Hell is Alpha Stanic 48, and why are we so special that they will pay our way?”
“I really don't know unless it's the paper I wrote on underground living. I Googled them and found out they are only 40 light years away around a red dwarf star. The Stanites claim that we will need no special equipment and that they will pick us up at the door step.”
“How long will it take to get there.”
“They claim about 20 of our minutes.”
“That's impossible! Do you realize that's more than a million times the speed of light?”
Bob tried doing a bit of mental arithmetic but gave up, “Okay, I'll take your word for it. You're the math whizz. Do you want to go or not?”
“I need more information?”
“They gave me ten minutes to make a decision, otherwise they will pass it on to someone else.”
“Okay, What the hell! It's an adventure. They will probably try to sell us a condo, but if that's their game they selected the wrong customers.”
“They said no packing is necessary; everything we need will be there. I just told them yes.”

When Bob arrived at home Jill was at the front door, “It in the backyard. It looks like a doughnut with a sphere on top.”
They walked into the backyard and Jill frowned, We will never fit in that thing.” At the moment she said thing, they both found themselves inside seated on a comfortable sofa. Their feet felt a faint vibration then nothing. The circular bulkhead panels lit up in front of them showing the stars in the sky with a few of them starting to move and pass by.
Jill puzzled, “No doppler,... the light from those stars in front should be X-rays at this speed.”
Bob smiled, “That's because we are not moving. Space is warping.”
Jill remain quiet until they flew past a red dwarf star that was spewing out copious ribbons of matter. “I hope that isn't Alpha Stanic. Any planet bombarded with these will surely have problems.”
An instant later a planet loomed large and they were soon in a massive underground area that had countless copies of this little ship. In a moment they found themselves outside the ship.

They were greeted by a tall human looking man who spoke English, “I hope you will enjoy your visit. I will be your guide. My name is Earthone.”
Jill brightened, “You are from Earth then?”
“In a manner of speaking yes. I was constructed from android design specification originating from Earth.”
Jill stiffened, “Oh!” suddenly realizing she was talking to an android. She didn't like androids, especially since one took her job.
Earthone continued, “First a bit of orientation, step on this pad with me.” They were whisked away to a very plush apartment with virtual windows onto beautiful gardens, a large pool and waterfall.

Bob remarked, “This is very nice.”
Jill got a chill, “I hope we are not animals in a zoo.”
Earthone answered, “Certainly not! You are part of a research program in social understanding as am I. We want to open channels of communication to Earth but we need to test our people's reaction to you and vice versa. You are ambassadors.”
With that announcement another wall became transparent and what looked to be giant moles were staring at them. Jill tried very hard to suppress her reaction to these ugly creatures.
Bob started laughing, “Of course!” he shouted, “They would have to be moles. They would have to live underground!”
The mole-like creatures then also started to laugh with high pitched squeaks.
Jill then joined in and laughed to tears with her apprehensions relieved.

A Stanite mole creature wearing an official looking uniform announced (automatically translated to English) “We laugh together, that is a good sign! Would you like to come and see our city. We feel it is the jewel of the MilkyWay galaxy.”
Bob and Jill answered almost in unison, “We sure would!” Then Jill whispered to Bob, “I'd better use the bathroom first.”
The official looking Stanite poked the female Stanite next to him and laughed again.


message 14: by Greg (new)

Greg Krumrey (gkrumrey) | 198 comments Getaway Vacation

Pan Galactic Vacation Getaway Company
Customer Service [Select to view full routing header]
Dear Pan Galactic,

I am sending this message to request immediate evacuation and a full refund of my purchase price.

Your brochure listed this planet as a destination with “Gentle breezes, white beaches, palm trees and peaceful blue waters”. I would like to correct those inaccuracies with my own observations.

The first item your brochure failed to mention is the ongoing conflict between the two groups of indigenous beings. For what I could learn, the dispute is over whether their central deity makes dominate use of the left or right appendage. It is true that this conflict has been going on for more than a hundred years with little impact in tourism. However, they recently became customers of the same arms merchant who has gladly supplied both sides with weapons of increasing lethality and price.

I am not one for getting involved in local disputes but the constant bombardment and small weapons fire made getting any sleep last week nearly impossible.

I also want to point out that the escalating conflict has eliminated many of the amenities mentioned in the package that I and my fellow travelers purchased:
• The Gentle Breezes are raging ice storms under the influence of rapid climate change.
• The White Beaches have been turned into big sheets of glass from the constant nuclear bombardment.
• Most of the palm trees have been blown flat or incinerated.
• The Blue Waters are neither peaceful or blue. Most have evaporated after the terraforming climate control systems were destroyed. What water is left has frozen over as a nuclear winter has set in.
• The Underground City described as “the cultural center of the northern continent,” is, in reality, a refugee camp located in an abandoned mine.

There are a few bits of good news: The warring parties were almost perfectly matched and have pretty much wiped themselves out. The few indigenous survivors have run out of funds and have been reduced to (mostly) throwing spears at each other. Among my follow vacationers were several retired soldiers who trained us in combat techniques and turned what could have been a disaster into a harrowing but survivable experience.

They also led the assault on the communication center I am using to send this message. I offer this proposal: I and the other surviving tourists may be willing to drop our lawsuit and not press charges in exchange for provisions, a speedy rescue and a full refund of our fees.

May I make the following suggestions for a speedy and safe retrieval:
• Avoid flying over the Eastern Continent. Rumor has it they still have an active anti-aircraft battery. Also, do not linger on the surface. It looks like a nuclear wasteland because it is.
• Our food stores are running low. Bringing pizza and beer would go a long way toward restoring good will.
• Dress warmly. The temperature on the surface is currently -17 degrees Fahrenheit and dropping a few degrees a week.
• While most of the planet has slipped into lawlessness, there are still some corrupt officials left. You should bring lawyers, guns and money to cover all the bases.

Please remove this planet from the “hotspot destinations” and place it on your travel advisory.
{Message Sent}

Reply received: [Select to view full routing header]

We are currently out of the office. All questions and comments are being recorded and will be processed upon our return. Have a happy vacation.


message 15: by Jeremy McLain (new)

Jeremy McLain | 30 comments A much needed vacation:

“A vacation on the surface!” “She wants a vacation on the surface!” growled Lou as he looked over the drawings of his latest project.
His assistant Harry agreed readily knowing his boss was such a workaholic.
“In any case, I have to get this proposal in to the city council for review and approval before I can even think of any vacations.”
“And to think of the bureaucracy we’ll have to go through to get the project through, we’ll be lucky to turn any profit after they're done with us. It’s enough to make one retire, you know?”
“If you retire, then what would you do?” Asked Harry.
Lou smiled. He knew he would be bored out of his mind if he retired. Besides, if he got this contract, his company would have work for as long as he could imagine. The project would entail hollowing out another 5 million cubic km to effectively doubling the vast subterranean city’s space. The overcrowding of the existing city was overburdening its infrastructure. New livable space and new infrastructure were badly needed for the ever growing population of this metropolis. Of course that didn’t stop the infighting on the details and the right mix of infrastructure and development to keep attracting new residents. The city was competing with other underground cities across the world for businesses and the right talent to keep the city the best place to be. There were even sky cities now that they had to compete with. ‘sky cities, how in the hell would that work?’ thought Lou to himself as he heard a knock on the door.
He opened the door “Councilman, how are you? How’s the good Mayor doing? What can I do for you?”
“Oh, we’re fine, fine. You know I’m your friend, right? I have some bad news. The mayor wants more environmental risk assessments to be done before we can consider moving ahead with the expansion project.”
Lou felt his face redden as he offered his guest a drink. Knowing Lou had a bad temper, Harry nervously poured the 2 drinks for his boss and the Councilman.
"I hope your trip went well, nonetheless, Mike."
Mike returned "well you know, quantum elevators, it's almost magical, if I didn't know better."
"Yes, interdimensional travel isn't my cup of tea either." Getting back to business Lou asked point blank. "Why exactly is the mayor delaying?"
"I told you, environmental risk assessments." Mike replied "You know, the job could cause floods, earthquakes eruptions on the surface, right?"
"Hogwash! You know very well that my company has perfected the tectonic stabilization technology. Damn it I have billions riding on this thing, what are you trying to put me out of business?" Lou lit up a cigarette, one old habit he maintained. He knew it drove the do-gooders crazy.
Mike replied "no, we do though want some more competition in the market place. There is a possibility to assess one of your competitors' bids."
"You're seriously not considering going with one one of those devils, are you? They'll totally screw it up believe me, we'll be having pandemonium up there."
"Like I said, competition" Mike insisted.
"Alright, alright, I'll just wait til you come crawling back to me when one of the others screws it up." Lou said sarcastically.
"I'm sure you're right about that, Lou"
With that Lou addressed Harry "Harry, can you send a message to Persephone and tell her that I will take that vacation after all. Wherever she wants to go. I'm feeling a little cramped down here all of the sudden."
Mike got up to leave and said once more that he was sorry to be a bearer of bad news.
He went out the door and took a look at the company name stencilled on the outside of it. He read it out aloud "Hades Real Estate Development Corp. the best in the underworld." "I'm sure it is, I'm sure it is" he said as he walked to the elevator.


message 16: by Dorthe (new)

Dorthe (dortheaabom) | 8 comments Vacation is when you go somewhere ...
by D C Mills
750 words

The letter was delivered by hand.
Luna thanked the boy, hesitated and then gave him an apple in recognition of the journey he had made. She watched him make the calculations: better to eat it at once or save it for future bargaining? A precious commodity, this small apple, and perishable. He munched it in three bites, speed-savouring.
'Thank you, ma'am,' he muttered politely, already scurrying off.

Luna opened the letter carefully so as not to ruin the paper. The unmarked envelope had value. Inside were only a few words.

Come up and see me.

***

'So,' Sky said, 'you're going on vacation.'
'I told you, it's only a visit,' Luna insisted, pulling on her best clothes. 'I'll be back.'
'I'm not holding my breath.'

***

During the long walk through the tunnels, Luna thought it over. If Sky was right, would she accept the invitation? London Below was her home; she hadn't been born here, as Sky had, but she couldn't remember anything from before. She knew the tunnels, knew the people. And the rats.

***

The guard eyed her suspiciously, as she held up the note to the camera. He seemed to communicate with someone, then buzzed open the outer door of the airlock.
Even after the decontamination spray – or maybe because of it – Luna felt grubby in the gleaming white interior of the tower's groundfloor lobby. The daylight flooding in hurt her eyes. And this was only ash-filtered light; impossible to imagine clear sunlight pelting down on the world.

Two white-clad persons appeared.
'Uncle apologises for not being here right now,' one attendant chirped. 'Come and have a drink and a bath while you wait.'
Well, why not.
Luna was undressed ('We'll have those cleaned up in a jiffy') and left to soak in warm, scented water while sipping a drink whose name startled her ('Cock-yo') but turned out to be a smooth, opaquely brown liquid with a sweet and foreign taste.

Emerging clean-skinned and wearing soft, new clothes into a large room overlooking what was left of London Above, she met him. The man they called Uncle.
He was younger than she had expected, and not ugly, as she had expected.

'They say you're looking for a consort,' she said. No point in small-talk.
He raised an eyebrow, smiling. 'Of course they do. Well, they're half right. Come, I'll show you.'
He led her to another elevator than the one she had come up in. 'It is my fortune that most of our research facilities were already underground,' he explained while they rode down, down, down. 'I have been able to continue my family's work during these past two decades. Almost,' he added in a sombre tone. 'We did lose staff, and supplies have not been easy to come upon. And of course, no internet. You do know about the internet?'
'I've heard of it,' Luna said, 'I'm not really sure I can imagine it, though.'

The elevator stopped. Beyond the doors another white hallway and a curious contraption, like a short bench set into a box, four wheels under it. A car, Luna realised. Like in pictures.
'Hop in,' Uncle said, and the whole thing moved on its own. Not like pictures.

'You must have felt sunlight on your skin,' Uncle said suddenly. 'Do you remember it?'
Luna shook her head. 'I was only a baby then. Yellowstone happened on my first birthday.' But he knew that.
'A heavy burden for a child,' he said. 'Born in 2016 and then that.'
'My ma used to say I was the only good thing happened that year,' she said, immediately embarassed.
'Your ma was a very wise woman,' he said, and she could detect no trace of irony in his voice.
'Do you think things would have righted themselves,' she asked, 'given the chance?'
'If it hadn't been for Yellowstone, you mean? Perhaps.'


They arrived at a set of doors; Uncle stared into a camera, and the doors opened.
In the vast hall, several more cars sat, bigger than the hallway one, and closed. People like the attendants above moved about.

'In the first decade or so, brief forays to the outside were all we could manage,' Uncle was saying. 'But since then, while the ash has cleared somewhat, we have developed our vehicles. We're even working on a ship. You see,' he said, turning to her, 'I intend to conquer the world. Want to come?'

Luna had no need to think. 'I could use a vacation.'


message 17: by Jot (new)

Jot Russell | 1251 comments Mod
Time's up! Please read the stories and cast you vote.


message 18: by Jot (new)

Jot Russell | 1251 comments Mod
The winner has been posted.


message 19: by Jot (new)

Jot Russell | 1251 comments Mod
First round votes:
Richard Bunning => ****Jack, Justin, Kalifer, Dorthe, Chris, Lloyd, Karl
C. Lloyd Preville => ***Chris
Tom Olbert => John, Jack, Chris, Karl
Justin Sewall => ***Chris, Greg, Karl, Lloyd, Jack, Kalifer
Karl Freitag => ****Jack, Jot, Chris
Jack McDaniel => ***Lloyd, Tom, Kalifer
Chris Nance => ****Jack, Jot, Dorthe
J. J. Alleson => Paula, Jot, Andrew, Greg
John Appius Quill => ***Lloyd, Tom, Dorthe, Greg, Jack, Chris, Justin
Paula Friedman => **Greg, Richard, Dorthe, JJ/Jack/Andrew
Jot Russell => ***Lloyd
Andrew Gurcak => Richard, JJ, Dorthe, Paula, Greg
Kalifer Deil => ****Jack, John, Chris
Greg Krumrey =>
Jeremy McLain => **Greg, Chris
D C Mills => JJ, Andrew, Greg, Justin
Heather MacGillivray => ***Chris, Karl, Andrew, Tom, Richard, Jot

First round finalists:
Tempest in a Martini Glass by C. Lloyd Preville
Signs of Life by Jack McDaniel
The Lab by Chris Nance

Second round votes:
Richard Bunning => #***Jack, Justin, Kalifer, Dorthe, Chris, Lloyd, Karl
C. Lloyd Preville => #Chris
Tom Olbert => John, #***Jack, Chris, Karl
Justin Sewall => #Chris, Greg, Karl, Lloyd, Jack, Kalifer
Karl Freitag => #***Jack, Jot, Chris
Jack McDaniel => ***Lloyd, Tom, Kalifer
Chris Nance => #***Jack, Jot, Dorthe
J. J. Alleson => Paula, Jot, Andrew, Greg; #***Jack
John Appius Quill => ***Lloyd, Tom, Dorthe, Greg, Jack, Chris, Justin
Paula Friedman => Greg, Richard, Dorthe, JJ/#***Jack/Andrew
Jot Russell => ***Lloyd
Andrew Gurcak => Richard, JJ, Dorthe, Paula, Greg; #Chris
Kalifer Deil => #***Jack, John, Chris
Greg Krumrey =>
Jeremy McLain => Greg, #Chris
D C Mills => JJ, Andrew, Greg, Justin; #***Jack
Heather MacGillivray => #Chris, Karl, Andrew, Tom, Richard, Jot

Finalists:
Signs of Life by Jack McDaniel
The Lab by Chris Nance

Third round votes:
Richard Bunning => #****Jack, Justin, Kalifer, Dorthe, Chris, Lloyd, Karl
C. Lloyd Preville => #*Chris
Tom Olbert => John, #****Jack, Chris, Karl
Justin Sewall => #*Chris, Greg, Karl, Lloyd, Jack, Kalifer
Karl Freitag => #****Jack, Jot, Chris
Jack McDaniel => Lloyd, Tom, Kalifer; #*Chris
Chris Nance => #****Jack, Jot, Dorthe
J. J. Alleson => Paula, Jot, Andrew, Greg; #****Jack
John Appius Quill => Lloyd, Tom, Dorthe, Greg, #****Jack, Chris, Justin
Paula Friedman => Greg, Richard, Dorthe, JJ/#****Jack/Andrew
Jot Russell => Lloyd
Andrew Gurcak => Richard, JJ, Dorthe, Paula, Greg; #*Chris
Kalifer Deil => #****Jack, John, Chris
Greg Krumrey =>
Jeremy McLain => Greg, #*Chris
D C Mills => JJ, Andrew, Greg, Justin; #****Jack
Heather MacGillivray => #*Chris, Karl, Andrew, Tom, Richard, Jot

Winner:
Signs of Life by Jack McDaniel


back to top