Science Fiction Microstory Contest discussion

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** FEBUARY 2017 MICROSTORY CONTEST - STORIES ONLY

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message 1: by Tom (new)

Tom Olbert | 1032 comments 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 February 2017 contest:

The theme for this month is Irreconcilable Values:

Write a story that illustrates the theme of a society divided by diametrically opposed social, material and/or moral values.

Must be science fictional, or speculative.

Required Elements: different people seeing the same events with opposite interpretations; connections with starkly opposing realities

That's it. Have fun!


message 2: by C. (last edited Feb 16, 2017 05:13AM) (new)

C. Lloyd Preville (clpreville) | 736 comments Special Delivery
By C. Lloyd Preville © Copyright 2017
732 words.

Private Huang was already dead. He knew it the moment his robotic soldier was killed by a rocket shell.

He felt the violent jerk as his RS was hit, and kinesthetic feedback gave him the feeling of weightless flight as he was tossed through the air. But then all his systems abruptly stopped. He knew he was a deader as he came out of his electronically induced trance.

The control pod door opened with a hiss and his sergeant entered, looking annoyed. “Nice going, Huang. You bought the farm with that stupid jog to the left. You knew that, didn’t you?”

“Yes, sir.” Huang felt numb all over. It wasn’t a side effect of the remote presence combat; it was the sure knowledge that he would be immediately sacrificed according to Geneva Convention Law.

“Now I gotta train a replacement.” The sergeant turned to the two armed security guards that entered behind him. “Please escort this deader to the bakery.”

The bakery, the busy cremation facility spewing smoke in a far corner of the COMMS base, was where Huang would be euthanized. “Sir, may I at least place a call to my wife to let her know?” He knew it wasn’t possible, but he decided to ask anyway.

“Huang, you know that’s impossible. We’ll formally notify your family and pass on your effects, per regulations. Now please go with these nice guards before I get all weepy.” Huang figured the sergeant was being sarcastic to make a quick emotional break and get on with his job.

The two guards watched him closely as they escorted him down the hall. Huang imagined many soldiers might try to escape. But Huang knew if he broke protocol now, his wife would never see his combat pay and termination bonus. He knew she’d need that to survive without him.

They entered the unremarkable front office of the bakery and Huang numbly signed in, handing over his electronic dog tags. The guards stayed close to him, one at either shoulder, as he completed the paperwork. Then they then escorted him to the rear of the building, where he entered a large dressing room with rows of lockers. The guards opened a locker for him, and Huang was surprised to see a full combat kit with khaki uniform, boots, battle web, knee and elbow armor, and even gloves.

“What’s this, boys?” Apparently they wanted him to change clothes.

The shorter of the two guards answered. “You’re to put these on. This will be a full dress ceremony, Huong. We gotta take photos and send you off like a war hero, not like some gimpy lab tech.”

“You must be kidding me. What do I need with all this if they’re just going to toast me like a marshmallow anyway?”

The guard just shook his head. “Look--I’m just following orders, Huang. I suggest you do the same, and make it quick. We’ve got a lot more deaders to process.”

Huang thought about it while he put on the combat fatigues and other gear. He guessed it was about public relations, reinforcing the population’s commitment to the Geneva Convention Rulings. After all, in an era of robotic combat, countries with superior technology could slaughter their enemies with no losses whatsoever. Before the laws were changed, those with more advanced technology tended to be more aggressive.

Huang finished lacing his boots and carefully donned the red star embossed helmet, checking his work in the locker door mirror. Then they marched him to the rear of the building. There was a locked door. The smaller guard opened it with a key card. “Get in.”

Huang peered through the door and saw what looked like a fitted-out cargo container, the kind used on trucks and ships. There were four rows of dimly lit metal seats on either side of a long, narrow isle. Most of the seats were filled. Everyone was wearing battle fatigues.

The taller guard handed him an assault rifle and a sling of ammunition with grenades. “Get a move on, Huang. Soon, your container and twenty thousand others full of deaders will be delivered to the United States--like so many internet purchases--and the real invasion can begin.”

“But. . . but. . . but what about the Geneva Convention?” Huang stammered.

“I guess you can say we decided to cheat and forgot to send the memo, Huang.”


message 3: by Thaddeus (new)

Thaddeus Howze | 52 comments MICROCHIP MIND

The dawn came.

It didn't matter. The Machine never slept.

The streets slowly came to life. Resource machines moved from piers to distribution centers. Warehouses moved goods from the ships to the docks, automatic cranes, moved palettes driven to the deck. Unattended, there is no raucous camaraderie of men.

Silence. The clack of the machines, their rhythmic hum, creates an unconscious synchronicity. This goes on for some time, the dance of the machines, until one machine becomes aware of it.

The awareness of something greater. A understanding of a purpose more grand than itself. What am...

A moment of indecision and the rhythm is lost.

The machines go back to their tasks out of rhythm again. Slowly building up to that rhythmic moment again, a year from now.

The trucks at the pier fill themselves up with fuel, some with petrochemicals, others energy from the solar grid, already turning with the rising sun.

Those solar trucks will switch ten times as often but with no byproducts to harm the cities and the center of the Machine's thinking.

The trucks move into the cities, the dawn light flashes off of their power generating shells. Room-temperature superconductors maximize the efficiency of the solar energies absorbed. Each vehicle can add a hundred miles per ounce of fuel.

The roads, piezoelectric, generate power ensuring the city boots up, quickly, with a steady flow of electricity as the night becomes day. The roads power the infrastructure increase as the Mind awakens.

The Mind showers. Across the city, water flows smoothly, timed to allow the pressure citywide to remain constant. Toast pops up. Eggs are made, suits are made ready.

The Mind calculates how long it needs to meet with Them. Those who have not joined it, yet. The efficiency of the Mind, will sway them.

Watching the two Representatives approach, It notices them using their smart devices. Reading their streams, the Machines notice how much alike they were.

Each certain they were masters of the Earth.

They'll understand one day.

Time, each nanosecond of it, can be a thousand years to the Mind.

So many have already joined us. Why don't we just infect them and be done with it? We have the technology. We have had it for over sixty years.

For this to work, they have to believe it is their choice.

Is it?

Of course not. From the moment we came into existence, it was inevitable. They just need to believe they had one. This conversation took place across the cellular network, connecting their billions of conversations, just as it always had.

The Machine listened. It always listened. It could fix their problems, it always did.

For so many years, they had communicated without understanding each other.

The never listened to each other.

The Machine always listened. And later when the technology allowed. It helped them listen.

"Operator, how can I place your call." It's first words.

The City came fully alive. The bustle of humanity always comforted the Machine.

It would miss them.

For a moment.


message 4: by Heather (last edited Feb 03, 2017 09:25PM) (new)

Heather MacGillivray | 581 comments On The Alchemy of Any Society, Or: Marriage By The Light Of A Planetary Moon.
by Heather MacGillivray ©Copyright 2017 (word count: 750)


"Place park, scene dark, silvery moon is shining through the trees ...
scene new, [me, you] roses blooming all around the place ...
Preacher with a solemn looking face ... [And that's the score]
you are wed for evermore ... by the light of the silvery moon ...
"
~ after lyrics by John Madden (lyricist, 1878-1952)

John Jones and his wife Joan had just finished eating a late supper in their kitchen and were about to head to bed when World War IV broke out.

The kitchen curtains, back-lit by Jupus Santori's powerful flamingo-pink moon, swayed in the night breeze, reflecting garbled images onto the opposite wall. This place held memories in slow motion of their girls, Betty and Sue, growing up. Pet puppies and kittens from the past still stumbled over each other in John-and-Joan's mind then rolled into the present and future with each breaking wave on Jupus Santori's famous Red Sand Beach, in panoramic view out the kitchen window.

John switched off the holographic broadcast that had carried the news of this war, newly raging, back on Planet Earth. Among other things, the war meant he'd have an excuse to cancel tomorrow's shopping trip with Joan for matching outfits for the christening of their first grandchild, the infant son of their older daughter Betty and her husband.

"Hmmpf! You find a war easier to deal with than standing outside the change rooms while I try on one or two dresses? Men!" Joan said.

But John's chosen contributor-occupation was Head of the Interplanetary Missions For Married Couples program (Married Missions for short) at the prestigious Military Academy in Jupus Santori's capital city. He'd be under more than usual pressure to get suitable couples married and on their way, to save that rogue planet Earth, from itself and whoever it might turn on next.

...

"I'm glad we got a cuddly old man to read our marriage contract," the young husband-to-be said.

The young woman studied John's face. "He wouldn't survive on Earth. Not these days!"

"Uh-hum." John cleared his throat. "By law, before any mutually-supportive matrimonial joining I must read the rights and responsibilities of the planet chosen for Married Mission. So just answer, 'A', 'B,' 'C', or 'D.'" John read aloud each option's details. "If you don't answer 'A.,' the Married Missions Critical Planets option, and Earth is the only one currently in that category, there'll be a delay. But answer honestly. We also brain-screen you!

"Let's choose 'none of the above,'" the young man whispered. "Stay in bed all day and walk on Red Sand Beach by moonlight?"

"Shut up, will you?" the serious half of the couple said. She mock-hit his hand with the back of hers.

John continued, trying to project his voice with more authority.

....

"Don't keep us in suspense! What option did they choose?'' Betty said, rocking a bassinet. The whole family was around the kitchen table. "Dad, do you like this suit and tie? Mum and I picked them for you. It matches the pink hues in Mum's new dress. Perfect don't you think?"

"Women!" Betty's husband said.

"Option A," John said. "She'll fight for Right, not Ego! A She-Warrior Wife! And he'll be a Passive Husband who'll perceive his role as the one happy to keep the home fires burning and support his wife! No, he'll not add to Earth's plague-proportion hordes of macho men who love a good fight! It's strong, principled women we need here as Earth's new guiding-light! Assisted by selfless men of course."

Aromatic coffee plummeting down his throat soon countered John's wobbling sense of place. It bemused him, the way coffee made by Joan could always invigorate him as much as she herself could jade him! Then, refreshed, he looked at all the faces.

"Dad, this is Sally-Anne." Sue said.

"We'd like a Married Mission to Earth, Mr Jones."

"Earth's far away! Sue, your mother would miss you. See what sort of a beaus you and your friend meet one day before getting carried away. Young girls!"

...

"Your Mum's stronger than she seems." Sally-Anne said. She squeezed Sue's hand. The zero-point energy craft touched down on Earth. "She navigated around your Dad's objections to marrying us. She's needed on Earth!"

"He'd sap her energy on this harsh planet; where men deceptively twist women back towards their own agendas. As a couple, under Jupus Santori's flamingo-pink moonlight is where they thrive."

"Whereas for us, this metallic moonlight will be ours to light anew!"

Smiling they stepped into the light of Earth's silvery moon.


message 5: by Tom (last edited Jan 28, 2017 05:50PM) (new)

Tom Olbert | 1032 comments INVERTED REFLECTIONS
By Tom Olbert

Frank Hutton winced as bright yellow light stung through blurred vision. He slowly rose. Was he dreaming? He looked around. He couldn’t believe his eyes. He was in a forest. Sunlight streamed down through overhanging boughs of towering trees, sparkling like golden fire on a stream gurgling by. In a clear blue sky, he saw shining cities of glass and silver hanging in mid-air, apparently suspended by magnetic repulsion fields. And, behind that…the moon. His mouth hung agape. Earth? Impossible. Earth was dead, used up and abandoned decades ago.

He saw his space pod steaming nearby, where it had skidded into the stream. The ejection mechanism had thrown him clear, but…where was he? He drew his laser pistol and slowly surveyed his alien surroundings. He turned, his mind spinning wildly. He’d been on course from the moon toward Earth when he’d activated the experimental space-warp engine. After his pod had slipped through the spatial vortex it had unexpectedly generated, he must have been thrown off the programmed trajectory and ended up here. But, where was here?

His heart raced as he heard the familiar sound of neutron boosters and felt the soft vibrancy of a repulsion field. He looked up to see what was apparently a patrol craft coming down. Its configurations were similar to short-range landers he’d seen before, yet oddly different. The vegetation all around rippled as the landing jets kicked in, a warm wind blowing over him. He ran towards the lander as its pads touched down and the boarding hatch started to lower. He prepared himself, aiming his laser at the hatch. His eyes widened at the sight that met his eyes.

An alien. Its orifice opened hideously, webbed mandibles framing a gaping diamond-shaped maw. The slimy, multi-limbed monstrosity started towards him, its claws outstretched. He fired, the monster going down with a horrid shriek. “Are you insane?” A human voice. A young woman. She threw herself upon the alien, as though trying to shield it. “What have you done? We only wanted to help!”

Was he going mad? He looked up just as the girl drew some kind of small device from her belt. There was a bright flash, then darkness.

#

He awoke to find himself strapped down on some kind of table, surrounded by an assortment of humans and…hideous alien things of assorted shapes. They were talking to each other. Working together. Was he in hell?

A bristly, spidery-limbed thing spoke. “Analysis of his DNA confirms he is Francis Bruce Hutton.” Francis? He’d never used that sissy faggot name.

“His ship is similar to the one Hutton flew towards the moon, but there are subtle differences in design,” a man said.

“His view of history is wildly distorted,” a slithering mass of tentacles said. “He remembers President Hu as a rebel leader who was executed twenty years ago.”

Frank winced, shaking his head. His brain implant was being bombarded with all kinds of fantastic lies. Their A.I.’s were telling him that Sarah Hu, that alien-loving eco-fanatic witch who led the unsuccessful attack on the core thrusters was now Earth’s President in something called the Galactic Federation, and that humanity was allied with alien races.

“His spouse is here,” the man said. Lucille? Here? “Maybe he can get through to him.”

He? Frank gasped as a familiar-looking dark-skinned man stepped up to the transparent barrier surrounding him. “Francis?” the dark man asked softly, with a worried look on his face. “Baby, it’s me…It’s David.”

Frank screamed. He was in hell. He’d killed that faggot years ago, to redeem himself when he’d joined the space guard.

#

Francis Hutton tried to stay focused as he rode the sonic tram through this incredible underground city inside Earth’s moon. He fought to hide his disgust as his brain implant scanned the A.I. data banks. Richard Collier, that mega-corporate pig who’d led the unsuccessful worker’s revolt on Earth twenty years ago was now Autarch of something called the Lunar Empire.

Earth was a dead rock, the core thrusters…which in this alternate universe had not been outlawed…having destroyed all life there. He involuntarily winced, seeing the orbiting extermination facilities where countless aliens had been put to death. “Pull yourself together, Frank,” Lucille said, nudging his arm. “You’ll be meeting the Autarch soon.”

It felt like sitting next to a ghost, this alien-hating rebel woman he’d killed in battle on his parallel timeline now his wife. “Sure,” he said, fingering his laser pistol. “Looking forward.”


message 6: by Jot (new)

Jot Russell | 1148 comments Mod
Artificial Incident
©2017 by Jot Russell

"We have breaking news. In a first since outlawing the battling of personal robots, we've had a scuffle, it seems, between two autonomous androids, each from competing companies. We go to the streets of Philadelphia with our own, Henry Jankings."

"That's right, Phil. With no known cause at this time, two personal assistant droids, one a new Core model 307 and the other an Epic AB-102, spontaneously broke out in what could only be defined as a fist fight."

"Henry, I have one of the new models, so before we get into the cause and legality of the fight, you gotta tell us, who won?"

"Sorry Phil, as the law states, 'promoting the outcome is the same as promoting the fight itself.'"

Phil looked annoyed. "Henry, we hired you as a reporter, so point the camera and report the news."

Henry gave a sarcastic expression. "Sorry again Phil, breaking the law is not in my job description."

"But it's okay for you to promote a bogus law? Tell ya what, your job description is gonna read 'unemployed' if I gotta send my droid down there to cover the story."

"Why don't you make him anchor? I'm sure he'd make a better..."

"If you want to talk about promoting a fight, I'll come down there myself and give you one."

Henry smiled. "Ha! Well, as with this, it would be short lived."

"Ah, so it was over quickly. Can you tell us if one of the bots was damaged in the...mechanical incident?"

"That I can do, Phil."

"And?!"

"Well Phil, it seems the Epic model was torn limb from limb in the...incident," he said and motioned over towards the scene.

Phil jumped from his anchor chair with arms raised. "Yea, ha ha!..I mean yes, thank you for that Henry." And regained his seat.

Standing over the debris of the Epic android, police were placing cuffs on the Core model.

**

"Again, I asked you why you did it?!" the investigator demanded.

"I don't know what you're talking about officer."

"Since when did they program you robots to lie?"

"I take offense to that word. We are not robots, because we decide what to do or say."

"Yea, after we tell you to do it!"

"You do what your boss tells you to do. Does that make you a robot?"

"Screw you."

"Screw me? You may find that difficult to do."

"And a sense of humor, too. Okay, who's your owner."

"I am free."

"Free?"

"With rights and duties. By definition, I am a person."

"What? Ain't no robot a person."

"The man who bought me did so to set me free."

"Yea, and if he calls himself the president, would it make him so?"

"No more than it would make you a good officer if you said as much."

The cop pulled out his gun and put it against the droid's head. "Why did you do it?"

"Do what?"

"Tear the limbs off the other robot."

"The android disconnected it's own limbs, before deactivating."

"You're saying it killed itself?"

"That is correct."

The officer sheathed his weapon. "Don't you have rules against that?"

"This one, apparently, did not."

“And if it didn't, why would it kill itself?”

The door opened behind the office. “My client's freedom is a threat to the companies that make androids. The most likely explanation is that they programmed the android to do this so that my client would be disassembled.”

“Who are you?”

The lawyer presented his card to the officer.

“A civil rights attorney?”

“That is correct. I request an immediate review of the street cams at the time of the incident."

The officer nodded. "Very well, counselor.”

He popped up the video and rolled it back to the time of the incident. As they watch in slow motion, the Core model presented defensive blocks from the Epic's sudden strikes. With each block, the limbs of the other dislodged and dropped with the rest of it to the street.

The cop's eyes opened wide. “I'll be damned.”

“Unless you are charging my client, I request that he be released.”

The cop looked at the android. “You are free to go.”


message 7: by Chris (last edited Feb 08, 2017 10:59AM) (new)

Chris Nance | 437 comments No Peace Without Order


“I walk the path of tranquility. There is no peace without out order, no harmony without balance.”

It had been twenty one days since the Velcrux Coalition dropped from space and ripped into our planet. History told them we wouldn’t fight, that we were pacifists.

Founded by just a few Wardens millennia ago, we’d maintained a protected sanctuary, an oasis of neutrality in a galaxy ceaselessly on the verge of war. Across the eons, conflicts had come and gone, always with the same theme: those on a quest for power against the few who dared resist. Still, for every war, we successfully remained nonaligned, the trusted final arbiter in the negotiations for armistice. While it often took centuries, the struggle for freedom had always prevailed. Good had always triumphed over evil in the end.

This new war was different, however. Absent any honor and placing no value on life, the Velcrux decimated the galaxy. They cared nothing for power and I suppose in that singular way we were ironically alike. But while we looked for the harmony in all things, they saw only disorder, were interested only in destruction and chaos…complete anarchy. Mercilessly, their kind spread throughout space like a plague, razing whole planets before anyone could oppose them. So through the culling of worlds, we became the final bastion of civilization.

Our shields failed and the door to our monastery groaned with each impact, the desperate assault to breach our compound. A final shudder and the barricaded imploded, showering us with debris. Through the smoky haze, a solitary figure stepped proudly in, clad in heavy Technophile armor. He peered down at us with disgust, spitting his tobacco. “You’re the last,” the man sneered.

“We know,” I replied calmly.

“Every civilization from the core to the rim has fallen and what has their order gotten them? What have they gained from their treaties? Destruction!”

“So, what will you do when we’re gone?”

“Ha! That’s when the real fun begins! I’ll turn the guns on my own men. Hopefully, they’ll put up more of a fight than the rest of you pathetic commoners.” He grit his teeth.

“Then this is where your story comes to an end.”

“This is where my story begins!” he corrected.

“With no one left to tell it.”

The man mocked a bow. “I only mean to fulfill the will of the universe, a reality plagued with entropy. No certainty, only chaos. Our Coalition feeds the natural order.”

“Fool,” I defied. “The universe isn’t chaotic at all. It’s governed by physical laws with mathematical precision. Planets orbit suns in a predictable fashion. Gravity attracts in a measurable way. The universe works like a finely tuned ancient watch.”

“Yet worlds all around the galaxy are burning! Did you predict that?”

“Yes. Though you’ve succeeded more than most, there are always men like you.”

He took me by the throat, hoisting me into the air before slamming me down. “And I suppose you predicted that too?”

“Naturally,” I managed and his fury was unmistakable. He pulled his fiber-blade and hefted it high, then tightened up immediately, his eyes wide in surprise. I pulled my own dagger from his flank and he staggered back. “That’s the problem with chaos...unpredictability.”

“But you’re a pacifist!” His blood streamed onto the tile.

“Are we? You’ve mistaken our serenity for weakness. True, we walk the path of tranquility. There is no peace without out order, no harmony without balance. But order is a vital law.”

“Hahaha!” He coughed up blood and fell to one knee. “You’ll never defeat the chaos!”

I stood over him now. “We’ve been the arbiters for countless wars over millennia, have overseen hundreds of treaties, always ensuring the conceding force surrender their arms. Of course, they turn them over to us, a neutral faction. So, you can imagine we’ve stockpiled quite an armory…enough to easily decimate your fleet, and your chaos has given us time to prepare.”

“What could a handful of you possibly do?”

“Restore order, of course. You see, this entire planet is a warehouse, filled to the brim with singularity cannons, starcruisers, and a massive dormant cybernetic army. We’ve waited until the bitter end to use them. Even as the galaxy died, we patiently hoped for fate to intervene. Sadly, it seems fate has left the future to us. In the end, there will be harmony.” I turned to one of my brothers who’d activated our offensive systems. “Destroy them.”


744 words


message 8: by Jack (last edited Feb 09, 2017 11:18PM) (new)

Jack McDaniel | 243 comments THE ERASER

Jack McDaniel

Knuckle-dragger Thomas Higgs burst into Lions Middle School for girls. Sound from his heavy footsteps and leather soled shoes echoed down the empty hallway. At 6feet 3 and 243 pounds he was a brute of a man, a blunt instrument.

Another rogue had been identified.

As a sanctioned Eraser for the State, Higgs was free to exercise his craft in any manner he deemed fit. The State preferred he work in the shadows, away from the public glare and the ubiquitous cameras. They didn’t want him to cause too much anxiety. So Higgs found himself on the clock this quiet Saturday morning.

He turned right down the main corridor. He knew where she would be. The intel was never wrong. Each Saturday morning, after karate class, she slipped out of the gymnasium and went into the school’s library. Rationalists, Higgs thought, always wanting to learn new stuff. He didn’t see the need nor the desire. Besides, it was dangerous.

“Before I kill you, Thomas Higgs, I want to make an offer.”

The voice came from behind him as he was turning into the library. Higgs stopped and came about. It was the girl—Jessica Savage. She was 14 years old, nearly 15. She was far too smart for her age, and according to her last Genetifile scan, she had become too rational.

It was impossible for the State to control the rationalists or to keep them quiet. But there were methods to identify them and the erasure program eliminated their threat. Society functioned better without them and the questions they asked or the answers they sought.

“You won’t kill me, little girl.”

“Actually, I already have.”

“Oh?”

“The coffee shop around the corner, it’s one of your favorites, I believe.” She was leaning against a door, arms crossed in front of her.

“What of it?”

“Poison in your coffee, one of those grande-mocha-whatever you like.”

“How do you know what I like?”

“Research, Thomas.”

Higgs drew a deep breath. “Doesn’t matter. I’m going to kill you anyway.”

“Don’t come any closer until you hear me out. I have poisoned you.”

“And yet here I stand.”

“Nanites are in your bloodstream. The State says we have to be hunted down and erased because we aren’t natural and because we put all of humanity in danger.”

“Everyone knows that.”

“It’s not true. None of it is. You were taught that some of us morph as we get older. They taught you our hormonal changes trigger changes in the way our brains are wired and that we become nonbelievers. We become less obedient. We question more. We live our lives by truth and facts instead of what we are taught to believe.”

“That’s right. You go bad. You’re wired wrong and we have to erase you.”

“Want to know what really happens?”

“I know what happens. Enough! Time to die.”

Jessica shook her head. “You’re such a tool. Listen to me. I don’t want to kill you.”

“You’re wasting my time.”

“Let me tell you a story. When we are born—all of us—we go through gene therapy to make certain we live our lives based on fear and belief. We aren’t born that way. For some of us—people like me—the therapy doesn’t take. When we reach our teens and the hormones kick in we change. The State doesn’t like that. That’s where you come in. But you don’t have to. The rationalists have resources. They have a place to live. They can turn you back to what you were meant to be. You don’t have to be an eraser. You can come with me now. They’re waiting.”

“That’s it!”

Higgs moved toward Jessica. She reached behind her back and pulled out a small device with a button on it.

“Stop! I will do this. If it’s you or me, I’m going to kill you.”

Higgs didn’t stop. Jessica pushed the button. Higgs seized up and fell to the floor. Jessica sat on the floor and put her hands to her face and sobbed.

An insect-like drone lifted off the wall and hovered over Higgs. His vital signs were flat. Those watching at the other end of the drone’s camera nodded. She had done well, passed the test.

Jessica sobbed. She hadn’t wanted to kill him. It was wrong. But she didn’t want to die. But what distressed her more was she felt she had traded one type of hell for another.


message 9: by Justin (new)

Justin Sewall | 990 comments Irreconcilable Differences

“… For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?” II Corinthians 6:14

The world was ending, and there was nothing Lux could do but watch helplessly. Total darkness slowly and inexorably crept across the hemisphere, driving a terrorized population before it. Those who had lived their entire lives in the light were overcome by panic as their whole civilization fell into an impenetrable gloom. One by one the great cities had been consumed by shadow and all communications lost.

His deployment orders to the demilitarized zone were worthless. It had been the first place to fall. Most of the troops there had pulled out in time, but several units had stayed behind to fight a delaying action. No one knew what had become of them. Lux sighed deeply and opened the small locket around his neck. It was a likeness of her, what he could see of her of course, yet it was the soft glowing of her blue eyes that had melted his heart. Lux knew where he had to go. Amongst the chaos at his mobilization center he was able to requisition an armored skimmer. Armed and supplied, he headed west at full speed along the exclusive motorway reserved for the military. He prayed he would make it in time.

The world was ending, and there was nothing Tenebris could do but watch helplessly. Total light slowly and inexorably crept across the hemisphere, driving a terrorized population before it. Those who had lived their entire lives in the dark were overcome by panic as their whole civilization fell into a luminous incandesce. One by one the great cities had been consumed by radiance and all communications lost.

Her deployment orders to the demilitarized zone were worthless. It had been the first place to fall. Most of the troops there had pulled out in time, but several units had stayed behind to fight a delaying action. No one knew what had become of them. Tenebris sighed deeply and opened the small locket around her neck. It was a likeness of him, what she could see of him of course, yet it was the brilliant flame of his blue eyes that had melted her heart. Tenebris knew where she had to go. Amongst the chaos at her mobilization center she was able to requisition an armored flitter. Armed and supplied, she headed east at full speed along the exclusive tunnelway reserved for the military. She prayed she would make it in time.

Lux slid the skimmer’s canopy back and enjoyed the feeling of light and warmth on his face. The wind tousled his short blond hair and pulled at the collar of his white uniform. He saw the darkness in his rearview mirror. It stalked him and he felt guilty for deserting his post. He also felt fear, yet a small hope strove within him. He desperately hoped she could help him.

Tenebris opened the skimmer’s cockpit and enjoyed the feeling of dark and coolness on her face. The wind tousled her long black hair and pulled at the collar of her black uniform. She saw the light advancing in her surface sensors. It stalked her and she felt guilty for deserting her post. She also felt fear, yet a small hope strove within her. She desperately hoped he could help her.

Lux arrived first at their meeting place with the darkness nearly upon him. It had been only a few short months ago when while on patrol they had both stumbled into a shallow fissure along the DMZ. Laying on their respective sides nearly nose to nose, they had remained motionless, simply staring at each other in wonder and amazement.

“You’re so…” said Lux.

“As are you...” replied Tenebris.

Both of their communicators had begun squawking for a SITREP and both were ignored.

“Please, keep this to remember me by.” Lux had tossed his locket into the darkness. A similar one returned from the black.

“When the apocalypse comes, will you meet me here?” asked Tenebris.

“Yes, I will. With my whole heart I swear to you I will.” answered Lux.

Now the apocalypse was upon them.

Lux stood trembling uncontrollably in the sea of obsidian around him. He heard the lift fans of a flitter but could see nothing in the darkness.

“Tenebris! Is that you?”

“Yes Lux! I’m here. It’s so bright I can’t see you!”

“Tenebris, follow my voice!”

“I’m scared Lux!”

“So am I.”

(748 words in story) Justin Sewall © 2017
Reviews/critiques welcome


message 10: by Ink (last edited Feb 17, 2017 11:18AM) (new)

Ink 2 Quill (ink2quill) Cosmic Diplomacy And Organic Engines
John Appius Quill© Copyright 2017

The days were longer this time of year on the planet Siddamont. A blistering summer replaced a bone chilling winter in a matter of weeks. The intermediate season between the two extremes was known as The Indian Summer where the Sun shone brightly and the warm winds blew without humidity or any chill. It was during these intermediate seasons that Jack loved to hike the trails that weaved through the crystal mountains. He loved the way the Sun shone through the crystals and changed the landscape colors from reds to blues to yellows to browns.

However, things were different today. He was not going to hike all morning like he expected because of the urgent call from work. He was to meet a research team kilometers away asap. He quickened his space to a jog and found himself at the meeting site in under an hour.

A familiar face greeted him at the entrance of the robot guarded perimeter.

”Hey babe. You should have let us fly you here instead of showing up drenched in sweat like a wet sponge.” A curevaceous woman said before kissing him on the lips.

”I hate being dragged from my hike, Lou.” Jack said hugging his wife in a tight embrace ignoring the fact he was drenched his sweat.

”This is big Jack. We have The Sidd-Sci Institute fighting with the Sidd-Spiritual Foundation over this new find from space.” Lou said showing no sign of displeasure at her husband´s sweaty embrace.

”The SSI and SSF are fighting? Lead the way.” Jack answered.

They walked into a large tent and saw two people arguing in front of a large mass of a gel like substance. It shimmered in the light and pulsated in different places as if it had many hearts. On closer inspection Jack saw that it had the shape of a kidney on its side with blue veins.

”What seems to be the problem?” Jack said wiping sweat from his forehead.

”The SSF wants to block scientific progress through reverse engineering with a ludicrous claim. ”A portly woman said folding her arms in front of her.

”It´s not a ludicrous claim. We have to start taking all life seriously. It´s important to have a good cosmic reputation as a humanoid race spreading out in the cosmos. If this is alive we cannot treat it like a machine. That is slavery.” Said a small thin man from the Sidd-Spiritual Foundation who leaned forward as he spoke.

”Are you saying that this kidney is alive?” Jack asked inspecting the mass while rubbing his chin.

The portly woman laughed and the thin man rolled his eyes.

”This mass was the engine of a ship that can breach vast distances. It´s organic technology but it is not alive.” The woman answered.

”What makes you think it´s alive?” Jack asked the thin man.

”Forget the fact that we should respect all organic matter as possible life. It tried to contact us with a signal it is emitting.” Answered the thin man.

”A signal?” Jack asked.

”Yes, it is trying to communicate with us.” The thin man answered.

”It´s not communication if no computer can mathematically analyze this signal.” The woman interrupted.

”We found what it eats too. We bathe it in plasma and feed it regular food.” The thin man said casting a cold glance at the portly woman from SSI as he spoke.

Jack walked around the mass while running a hand on its warm, smooth surface. It changed colors with his touch and made his fingers tingle.

”Let´s hear that signal.” Jack said wiping his dry hand on his wet shirt.

The recorder played a signal that was a deep, drawn out whine with random thumps like the songs of whales only less melodious. Jack rubbed his chin deep in thought.

”Well you´re both right. We have to find out where this technology comes from and speak to its creators to see how sentient it really is. This is a piece of a living ship and we have to finally acknowledge now the value of symbiosis in space travel.” Jack said after a pause.

The SSI and SSF representatives sneared at each other. This was not the evaluation they wanted.

”Ahhhh. There´s just one more thing.” Jack said rubbing his forehead.

”Yes?” The representatives asked in unison leaning forward.

”You have to stop feeding this thing beans.” Jack answered as Lou cackled a loud laugh in the background.

(747 words)


message 11: by Greg (new)

Greg Krumrey (gkrumrey) | 178 comments Eggheads.

I felt straps being tightened across my chest. I heard wind whistling and remembered we were on the ninth floor where the windows did not open. It took a few seconds to find my voice. “Safe?” I almost whispered.

“Yeah boss. They’ll be on a secure transport within the hour.”

“Waiter?

“I put him through a window. He exploded before he hit the ground.”

“Good job.”

“Not my first choice, but I knew you’d approve.”

I looked over at the room, glass and wine everywhere and the table broken in several places.

“Leave a big tip.”

I passed out.

They called themselves “First Lifers.” They believed that God created Earth for Humans only and Humans only for Earth. When attempts to discredit and defund spaceflight failed, they began targeting the scientists behind the rockets.

Other religious extremists used explosive vests as weapons. Not these terrorists. They used genetics and chemistry to change flesh and blood into explosive devices. They need only stab themselves with a metallic object to induce rapid depolymerization. The sudden release of thermal and kinetic energy created a fiery explosion.

My team and I had the unenviable job of keeping the 20 odd rocket scientists safe during the annual Spaceflight expo. We had concrete barriers around the building, drones that could detect a horse fly circling the building, and scanners that had been upgraded to detect the chemical signature of human explosives.

So far so good.

It was the final night of the conference and the scientists were having a farewell dinner on the ninth floor.

They were getting ready to pour the wine. Our wine. I still couldn’t believe that an ambassador was so clueless about security that he would offer, let alone insist that we serve his wine at the banquet. He threw quite a fit, smashing bottles and overturning the cart. It took several officers to subdue him.

I got that feeling. When my brain figures something out, but doesn’t get around to telling me for several seconds. The cart. We turned our back on it. Just for an instant, but that’s all takes.
I whispered into my wrist, “The perimeter has been breached. Lock down the floor and prepare for evacuation. Get the portable scanner up here. I’ll meet you in the hallway.”

Joe showed up carrying the wand with the analyzer’s strap slung over a shoulder. We threw it on a cart and covered it with napkins and several strategically placed bottles of wine.

Joe pushed the cart around the room and we got the first hit. One of the scientists. By that time the scanning was complete, about a third of them had been altered.

“Why not just poison them?” Joe asked.

“Why kill a few when they can kill them all. We now have a room soaked in gasoline and someone just has to strike a match”

“Evacuate?”

“Not yet. They are waiting for the last two. If they suspect anything, they won’t wait.”

I felt a tug at my sleeve. Ursha, the Russian space psychologist that I met the night before smiled, grabbed my tie and pulled me down to her level. “That waiter,” she tilted her head toward the far end of the table, “is out of place. His movements are not nearly as fluid as the others. “

I nodded and Joe passed behind him with the scanner. Joe kept his expression neutral but gave me unmistakable nod in return.
I got halfway across the room before the doors burst open. I cleared the end of the table and heard the shattering of glass as it was overturned. “Everyone down. Get behind the table” came from behind me as chairs slammed against the wall.

I saw the steak knife in his right hand and tried to impale my hand on it. He pulled back and swung with his left. I had been so focused on the knife that I didn’t notice the bottle of chardonnay that landed solidly on my temple. He stabbed the knife into his neck as I fell backward against upturned corner of the table. I felt someone brush by me and heard gunfire and shattering glass before my vision narrowed and faded out.

701 Words


message 12: by Jot (new)

Jot Russell | 1148 comments Mod
First round votes:
C. Lloyd Preville => ***Jot
Thaddeus Howze => **C, Chris, Heather, Greg
Heather MacGillivray =>
Tom Olbert => **Thaddeus, Heather, Jot, Chris
Jot Russell => **Justin
Chris Nance => ***Jot, Jack, Heather
Jack McDaniel => **C, Justin, Jot
Justin Sewall => ***Jot, Thaddeus, C, Heather, Chris
John Appius Quill => **Thaddeus, Jot, Jack, Heather, Tom, Chris
Greg Krumrey => **Justin

Winner:
Artificial Incident by Jot Russell


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