Science Fiction Microstory Contest discussion

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JUNE 2017 MICROSTORY CONTEST - STORIES ONLY

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message 1: by Chris (new)

Chris Nance | 434 comments JUNE 2017 MICROSTORY CONTEST - STORIES ONLY

The following rules are from Jot Russell, moderator for this contest:

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 goodreads (GR) 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.

4) You have until midnight EST on the 22nd day of the month to post your story to the GR 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 send me a single private vote (via GR or to author.jotrussell@gmail.com) 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 GR and the LI Sci-Fi group.

8) For each month, there will be three discussion threads:
a) Stories - For the stories and the contest results only.
b) Comments - For discussions about the stories and contest. Constructive criticism is okay, but please avoid any spoilers about the stories or degrading comments directed towards any individuals. If you want to suggest a change to the contest, feel free to start a discussion about the idea before making a formal motion. If another member seconds a motion, a vote can be held. I will abstain from voting, but will require a strong two-thirds majority to override my veto.
c) Critiques - Each member can provide at most one critique per story, with a single rebuttal by the author to thank the critic and/or comment to offer the readers the mind set of the story to account for issues raised by the critique. Critiques should be of a professional and constructive manner. 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, I will post the new contest threads.

**********
This month's theme:

Survival of the fittest


message 2: by C. (last edited May 30, 2017 02:48PM) (new)

C. Lloyd Preville (clpreville) | 734 comments Negotiating From Strength
By C. Lloyd Preville © Copyright 2017
(746 words)

When the ship materialized just above the New River in Southern Virginia, the immense shock wave echoed repeatedly off the sheer rock walls on both sides of the thousand-foot deep gorge, rattling Davis’ teeth.

“Jesus, Ruby, did you have to arrive in such close quarters?” Davis’ young, clean cut features were distorted with pain. The rock walls were less than three hundred meters away on either side of the sleek little red ship.

“Sorry Davis.” Ruby didn’t sound a bit sorry. “You said to arrive somewhere discrete.” They started following the river northward, the multi-hued rock strata and vegetation rapidly streaming by.

They accelerated while gaining a bit of altitude, flying northward uneventfully for about 10 minutes over farmland, suburbs, and then dense city development.

Ruby hovered, invisible due to the shields, and landed nimbly and almost soundlessly on the White House front lawn. She shut down her systems and opened the gull-wing door and Davis exited the little red space coupe. While still inside the shield boundaries, he spoke to his tornado suit. “Suit, please hide us from view and protect us both—but without hurting anyone.”

“Sure, boss. No problem.” The voice was crisp and businesslike, American English, Bronx accent, circa 1950.

The landed vehicle shrunk and morphed into his beautiful wife, Ruby. She stood there, looking Asian super-model fabulous. She was a shape-changer, made up of microscopic nanorobotic elements suspended in Glycerol. It was her robotic elements that gave her advanced capabilities.

“So, we just walk in and speak with the President? You know that’s going to shake things up, right?”

Davis looked over at Ruby and grinned. “It’s past time someone shook things up, Ruby. Earth is causing trouble again.”

They walked across the manicured lawn and onto the main driveway entrance.

When his suit forced the door and they entered, still invisible, all hell broke loose. Security people ran around shouting, and several ran directly into Davis blindly and were knocked flat.

Once Davis and Ruby’s presence was determined, there was some shooting. The suit quipped, “Not much of a welcome mat, boss.” It collected the spent bullets and squished them together in one hand, placing the ball of copper and lead on the edge of a table to politely return the material.

A steel blast door slid shut, blocking the entry to the Oval Office.

“Suit, open the door, please.”

Davis’ suit cut through the door with a pointed finger producing a loudly buzzing white energy beam. A large section of armored steel plate fell heavily onto the Oval Office floor, glowing around the edges, and Davis and Ruby stepped inside.

The President was under his desk, with a group of security officers standing in front of it. They all had pistols and automatic weapons drawn, producing a hail of gunfire which slowly petered out as their bullets flattened against an invisible barrier and dropped harmlessly to the floor in a growing pile of spent ammunition.

Davis instructed the suit to make them visible and then he spoke.

“Please put down your weapons before someone catches a ricochet and gets hurt. We only wish to speak to the president.”

One of the agents, now pointing his weapon directly at Davis, spoke. “Do you have an appointment? You cannot see the President without an appointment.”

Davis walked slowly over to the agent, apparently the squad leader. He reached out and pinched the end of his smoking submachine gun barrel closed so it could not be fired again. “Sure I can.”

From under the desk, the President’s muffled voice shouted. “Who are you and what do you want?”

“It's Davis Kelly Cole, Mr. President. I’m here because you’re breaking trade agreements with my clients again.”

The President got up from behind the desk and brushed himself off while his security team retreated to one side of the room, still pointing their weapons at Davis. “Oh, it’s you, Cole. Why can’t you make an appointment like everyone else?” The president took a cigar from a box on the desk and busied himself lighting it.

Davis said, “Mr. President, you have to understand it’s all about survival of the fittest. Right now we have to discuss your survival, since Humans are not fitting in so well.”

Davis’ tornado suit said, “Why don’t we just destroy the planet, boss? I find getting shot at highly annoying.”

“Not now…” Replied Davis, grinning sardonically behind the suit’s quietly whirling surface of grey clouds and blinks, “…maybe later.”


message 3: by Justin (last edited Jun 02, 2017 11:16AM) (new)

Justin Sewall | 969 comments Trading Places

A fine layer of dust drifted lazily down through ashen clouds as my fiancé and I emerged from our underground shelter. I squinted in the gray light, my eyes not even accustomed to the dim gloom that masqueraded as day.

“Fallout’s not too bad right now,” my fiancé noted as she flashed me the smile that had melted my heart.

“Well, let’s not dawdle on our first trip above ground.” I held out my hand and she eagerly accepted it.

“I still can’t believe we’re actually out here.”

“Believe it my betrothed. Let’s take a walk.”

I adjusted my sensors to capture any sudden movements, but the elders had assured us we would be alone during our time above.

We stepped into what had been a broad boulevard, clearly a main arterial from the number of vehicles left rotting in its wide lanes. Glass crunched beneath our feet and it was the only noise we could hear. No birds chirped. The clash and clatter of industry and commerce was stilled, frozen in time exactly as it had been when the bombs exploded.

“Is this…?” My fiancé pointed to some shadows burned into the roadway and uncovered by recent poisonous rains.

“Yes, that was them.” I tried to turn the conversation onto something less macabre. I failed.

“Do you know my great-grandfather was nearly run over on this road many, many years ago?” I said heartily.

“Things were different then, we weren’t…”

“Still, it makes for a great story with great-gramps dodging this way and that to avoid being squished. Don’t you think?”

“You’ve already told me that one silly. We’re not even married yet and I already know all your familial anecdotes.”

“Oh, you mean I’ve already told you that one?” I said, feigning ignorance and surprise.

“You’re incorrigible.”

“C’mon. There’s more to see.” I nudged her gently down the road towards the great towers looming a short distance away. Our exoskeletons were beginning to accumulate dust, so I brushed off hers and she brushed off mine.

“As if you needed an excuse to touch me,” she teased. She was always teasing. I liked it.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Mmm-hmm.”

***
After much skittering around and between vehicles locked in an eternal traffic jam, we came to an intersection surrounded by the great towers. Like massive tombs they sat silently, yet bearing a mute testimony about their former occupants. They had been here. They had ruled. Now they were gone. Beware of their example.

The broken windows reminded me of jagged eye sockets.

“If we climb to the top we’ll be able to see further than we’ve ever seen before.”

“Is it safe?”

“Of course it is,” I said confidently, easily hooking into a crevice and beginning my ascent.

“Can’t we just fly?” she lamented, thinking about the effort it was going to take to reach the summit.

“You know our exoskeletons can only fly for short distances, but we can glide back down. Easy-peezy. Now stop worrying and come on!”

She made her pouty face. She was always pouting too. I liked it.

We both started up the vertical face of the crumbling tower.

“Don’t look down!” I jested.

“I hope you fall.”

“Love you too!”

***
Upon reaching the top of the tower, we rested and lounged on what remained of its upper structure. Previous visitors from our shelter had made little sculptures with the small glass and metal bricks that were so ubiquitous to the deceased.

“It’s amazing…” my fiancé said.

“I told you it would be worth the effort.” I stood up and joined her in looking out across the devastated horizon. Burned out buildings, collapsed bridges, scorched trees and thousands of rusting vehicles dominated the landscape.

“Just think of it,” I mused. “No more Raid or Roach Motels to kill us off. No more exterminators fumigating our homes. All of this is ours now.” My antennae practically vibrated with excitement.

“Are you hungry dear?” asked my fiancé.

“Now that you mention it, I am feeling a bit peckish. What did you bring to eat?”

She dug into the small satchel that hung off her first pair of wings and brought out two cylindrical yellow cakes.

“Ah! You remembered!”

“Of course I remembered love! How could I forget?”

I shoved the yellow cake into my mandibles and chewed contentedly.

“Say what you will about the humans, they sure could make junk food.”

“Another Twinkie dear?”

“Yes please!”

How could I resist?

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


message 4: by Marianne (last edited Jun 03, 2017 10:53AM) (new)

Marianne (mariannegpetrino) | 352 comments Bookmark

The blackness parted. A candle impaled on a pewter holder commanded the center of a oak stand. A faceted mirror floating above it reflected three figures. All whom she had summoned waited.

They glared at Miriam, their fates in her hands. She twirled her weapon casually, but her heart pulsed with indecision. Two must vanish once she wielded it.

The rakshasa from Deneb 5 spit his greeting. “You will choose me, my Lady, for I am Death itself! Come, let us make war together!” His tiger-striped fur rippled as he roared, his saber teeth glistening with spit. His musky odor filled the chamber and cloaked her with its raw maleness. Visvaramu, King of his race, would have his Queen. He offered unmatched animal sex. His array of weaponry and spaceships challenged the ten worlds and every rock in between. His battle song would ring throughout the galaxy.

The cool, blond cleric from Atlair 3 laughed softly at the rakshasa’s declaration. He raised a feathery eyebrow in disdain. “Eternity alone lasts, deadly one. Why settle for a just a handful of worlds.” He narrowed his sky blue eyes and gave Miriam a melting smile. “You always dance to my rituals, sweet soul, and lose yourself in them and me. Follow my path, and we will bring down the false gods and claim the Great River of Stars, our destiny.” He tossed his shimmery locks. Ardrilian, vessel of his deity, pale as moonlight, held the immutable ice of immortality.

The historian from Aquarius 9 buzzed, “Why waste time consorting with these lesser beings of poor quality, who would destroy what is worth saving. Let us, Miriam, make our journey lift all Females! Only our sex can remain for peace to permeate the galaxy. With our Order, we will shape a billion worlds to our will.” Her delicate antennae flicked; her reflective wings beat vigorously with the passion of her intent, casting a prismatic spray of color. ZZZeabrana controlled her narrative, and with that, would gather all the Hives under one banner to spread her honeyed words and philosophy.

Miriam nervously rubbed her pen. Which name would she write on the square of paper in her right hand.

Through the curtained entrance came a loud, “Ah, heck, where did I put my glasses!”

Miriam took a deep breath. The three figures laughed in derision.

“ I need your help, dear!” came the snide command.

“This ends!” Miriam snarled. “The one of you who strikes first will remain!”

The three figures cheered.

Miriam pushed through the curtained entrance of her small psychomanteum. She approached the tall, skinny woman, who riffled through the magazines on the coffee table.

Deana turned and said, “Good, you are here.” Her glasses reflected back her wife’s anger. “I thought it was about time that you came out of your sanctum sanctorum. Does it really take that long to think up a new plot in the dark. Christ, it is not like you are a successful writer, anyway. Three novels and a pittance of sales. And you could use the exercise. You just get fatter every day.”

Miriam let her smile form slowly across her round face. Timing is everything and everything wonderful Deana had once been had long ago disappeared as her star rose and hers never moved. “Bet you could think of something real quick, dearest. There is a pen and paper on the table in there by the candle. Why don’t you show me what you got.”

Deana smirked. “You never allowed me into your secret chamber. What gives?”

Miriam straightened the magazines. “Oh, nothing. I just thought maybe you might get an insight that could help me, but if you don’t want to....”

Deana snorted. “Bet I could come up with an idea, but I get co-writer credit! I did some fine slash in my day.”

“Why, certainly.”

“Then, here I go,” her wife said, pushing her way through the curtain.

Miriam counted to thirty.

“Oh my god, who are you!”

Miriam counted to sixty. Her characters liked to declare their qualities. It was their weakness.

Deana’s screams arrived before her running wife did. She clutched the sockets that used to contain her eyes.

Miriam stepped aside, glad she had left the door open to the sky deck. Deana’s cries lessened, then ceased, as she fell the thirty stories.

Who’d have thought that they would cooperate, Miriam decided, returning to her psychomanteum and judgment.

Her story was theirs now.

Word count via Wordperfect 743


message 5: by Tom (new)

Tom Olbert | 984 comments WHOSE LINE IS IT, ANYWAY?
By Tom Olbert

65 Million B.C.

A massive asteroid hurtled towards Earth.

Tourists on the space platform shielded their eyes against the blinding white flash as the orbiting space shield atomized the gigantic rock, preventing the extinction of the dinosaurs.

A few hundred miles below, on the Earth’s surface, Janice Wilcox wiped the perspiration from her brow and glanced upward, catching out of the corner of her eye the nuclear flash, a distant sparkle through the hazy tropical heat.

She passed the billboard that read “PRIME REAL ESTATE AVAILABLE” with a smiling picture of her boss and former lover Howard Breck dressed in a safari suit and holding a rifle, posing with a dead Stegosaurus.

She walked up the main path into the resort complex, past the swimming pools and tennis courts. The shadow of a pterodactyl passed overhead. A guest snapped a picture.

She found Howard lounging on a lawn chair sipping a cocktail. “Hey, Jan,” he said with a broad smile, his growing paunch exposed and sun-reddened. “What brings you out of your office? Decided to have a little fun for a change?”

“Several things,” she muttered, glancing at her computer pad. “First, the European Time Research Institute is growing increasingly concerned about the ‘temporal hiccups’ they claim to have detected along the time stream.”

“The usual bullshit,” he said with a dismissive wave of his hand.

She was about to show him the latest quarterly projections when a flash of light and a wave of vibrancy on the air made her turn, her hair blown about by a wind that appeared from nowhere. The air boiled and rippled bright silver. A temporal rift, she realized. But here, away from the reception station? Janice dropped her computer pad, her mouth hanging agape as what appeared to be a somewhat more evolved version of a Hadrosaur appeared and stepped forward.

The knobby-headed creature looked the two of them over, its deep-sunken eyes bulging. It said something, in some screeching, unintelligible language. Janice pinched herself on the arm.

“What the fuck is this?” Howard demanded. “Some movie stunt?”

The reptilian biped reached one of its claw-like appendages into the pocket of its baggy grey coveralls and extracted some kind of device, resembling a phone. Adjusting the gadget, the scaly creature spoke through it, now in perfect English. “I beg your pardons,” it said. “But, I believe you’re trespassing.”

“Jan, get my lawyer,” Howard said.

#

The federal government was unable to prosecute Howard Breck, as there was as yet no statute prohibiting the creation of an alternate timeline.

The world’s scientists had concluded that by preventing the asteroid collision that had killed off the dinosaurs in the original timeline, Temporal Real Estate had created an alternate parallel universe in which reptiles evolved intelligence instead of mammals and eventually built a civilization millennia in advance of Homo Sapiens. One which was now spilling over into humanity’s timeline.

“The T.A.’s [temporal aberrations] are killing us!” Howard proclaimed from his podium on the space station before cheering crowds.

Janice shook her head. It still amazed her that he’d been able to spin a cosmic disaster that he had himself created into a winning political career. He was now President of the United American Continents. Everything he touched turned first to poison and then to gold, it seemed.

“They’re killing us in temporal real estate, in space colonization, asteroid mining, you name it. But, no more! Here’s where we take back our timeline!” He declared, as the ultimate weapon, the mother of all nukes was launched from the space platform, its jets igniting as the missile plunged down into the heart of Cretaceous Earth. The crowds waved flags and howled as a great purple mushroom cloud rose from the supercontinent, heralding the extinction of the dinosaurs and the eradication of the Hadrosaur timeline. “Man is supreme once more!” Howard declared, a smile crossing his face. He brushed Janice aside as she tugged at his jacket sleeve, trying to alert his attention to what was happening behind him.

He didn’t seem to notice as the temporal rifts opened, a race of intelligent giant cockroaches from the alternate timeline he’d just created swarming into the chamber, their ray guns drawn. A puzzled look came over his face as the crowds stopped cheering.

Janice couldn’t help laughing.


message 6: by Paula (last edited Jun 09, 2017 06:37PM) (new)

Paula | 835 comments Throwing Out Litters
Copyright © 2017 by Paula Friedman

“Throwing out litters?!” Zapsie the Catsie stopped her yawn, paws stretching sidewise next to Tiggle on the couch in front of Little Mo and Big Mo’s television, where everyone was watching a people show with talking heads called “Social Darwinism.”

“Drownings, too,” added Tiggle. He scratched at a flea behind his neck.

“Well then,” Zapsie mmrrrred. Her eyes slitted closed, then opened wide, taking in wee John in his fleece-buttoned nighty where he lay, cute and tiny, in his crib. The people had begun putting him there alone at nights. Zapsie stretched her claws again. “Well then . . .

"Them or us.”


message 7: by Chris (last edited Jun 13, 2017 09:28AM) (new)

Chris Nance | 434 comments Tin Man

Sometimes I wished for the beating of a heart in my chest, if only to feel it ache for what we’d become. Cold and sterile, our Earth was a lifeless maze of plasteel and synthetics. A robotic existence was the only kind, though we came in all sorts and sizes. I was just a Junker, a largely obsolete automaton in a world without any purpose…without any passion…without any dreams. In the beginning, we served mankind but they were eradicated centuries ago, at least according to the Hub. And with every human gone, what was the point? The archives said it was survival of the fittest. I wasn’t so sure.

For me, my humble routine included scrounging for parts and hauling them back to Wasteland, the thousand square kilometers of forgotten scrap piles bordered by sprawling metropolis. My rusty home, such as it was, sat about twenty miles in, tucked quietly away amongst the rest of the trash.

That day had been like most, easing the maglifters of my hauler down and backing into the antiquated warehouse I’d cleared away ages ago. Like always, I disarmed the security algorithms. No incursions…thankfully. Even so, I poked my head outside just to make sure, before securing the doors.

The refuse hatch swung wide and I pulled the inconsequential rubbish out first, tossing it away, anxious to reveal the more precious cargo I’d cleverly concealed. There they were, sleeping soundly in stasis, truly the last humans on Earth. One by one, I lugged each pod through a tight hatchway in the floor and secured them carefully. Twelve adults and four children…check. This was my final delivery after decades of clandestine work.

A ‘clank, clank, clank’ sounded from the hanger doors. “T1-NM-4N, you are ordered to comply! Admittance is compulsory!”

I hated that designation. It was just so…robotic. Maybe I’d grown too much, an ‘antique’ surpassing even my own cybernetic limitations, thankfully unable to link directly to the Hub and allowing me more freedom than most. Anyways, I preferred Tinman, a curious name given to me by a special little girl who’d long grown up and now waited patiently, still frozen in a cryotube.

I cracked the door and a machine army greeted me. “Can I…help you?”

“Inspection,” a process server-bot produced an authenticated holographic writ.

“Am I in violation?”

“That’s to be determined.”

“And the suspected infraction?”

“Harboring Insurgency.” The android enlarged the document. “T1-NM-4N will submit to inspection and download. Charge: Suspicion of abetting Homo Sapien.”

“A human sympathizer?”

“Will you comply?”

“Do I have a choice?”

“No.”

I punched the panic button and my hanger locked down, hidden turrets erupting from surrounding scrap-piles. I dropped though a hidden egress leading to the primed, waiting scow – not really designed for a pilot, but it was my only hope. The floor fissured, revealing my ejection silo as engines engaged, fiery explosions pushing us through the roof and into the sky.

There was a thud and then a thud again, followed by an explosion, firing from the ground sheering off the engine casing. It wasn’t enough to stop our ascent, but plenty to affect less critical systems. Normally, these junk-ships would head directly for the sun, but I’d been refitting them for decades. They never knew. So, I hit the jump drive and we disappeared.

Alarms blared. A random blast had overloaded the gold-infused relays to the cryopods and there was only one set of replacements on board. So, my parts would have to do.

Memory terminated…

**********

“Tinman?” My optics adjusted to a familiar face hovering over me.

“I’m here, Miss.” Rising from the table, she embraced me warmly and I discovered my reflection in the transom. A polished, top of the line robot stared back. “I don’t understand. Is this a dream?”

Dot chuckled. “I’ve missed you. Come with me. I have a surprise.”

We strolled down a long corridor to meet the paired suns of a new world. A crowd of thousands suddenly burst into cheering and applause. Far and wide, they’d gathered, waiting for me. “What’s this about?”

“This is everyone. Well, and their descendants. Hundreds of thousands of people.”

I had no idea.

“You saved us. You saved humanity. Why?”

“Because there’s a part of you that’s stronger than we’ll ever be.”

She smiled and placed a small medallion into a socket on my chest. “This is for you.” It pulsed and my circuits surged. “The heart you’ve always wanted, though I suppose you’ve had one all along.”


message 8: by Jot (last edited Jun 21, 2017 04:50AM) (new)

Jot Russell | 1093 comments Mod
The Ninth Challenge
Jot Russell c2017

Aknar breathed heavily and held the weapon over the now deceased, adult male convict. The sweat dripped off his young hand as he dropped the double-ended sword to the stone floor. He took another breath and looked over towards the next chamber to see his friend also competing against a much larger opponent. Aknar gasped as the criminal ducked under Torakus' strike and thrust himself upon his friend's back. Aknar ran to the screen that divided the chambers with hope that he might break through and lend assistance to the boy that he had shared his childhood with.

With his hands upon the field, Aknar could see the bottom end of the arched blade extend up and out of back of the man. Using it as a level, Torakus raised the top end of the sword and rolled the body off of him.

Now free, Torakus stood with his sword raised in celebration. He gave no care at the red ooze that dripped down upon his already red stained uniform. He bore it like a trophy as he walked over towards his friend. With his approach, the translucent field released. The boys exchanged grasps and turned to meet a man that joined them.

"Well done boys! You have completed all eight challenges. However, before you can enter the academy of the elite, there is one, much more difficult challenge for one of you to complete."

Aknar looked confused. "A ninth challenge, master?"

The master stood firm and provided no explanation.

Torakus asked, "What do we have to do?"

The master clarified, "Not we. One of you has to kill the other. Begin!"

The boys quickly turned their heads to read the other. Torakus looked down at the empty hand of Aknar and then beyond to see his blade laying near the fallen criminal. With his blood still raging within, Torakus shifted his stance and thrust the blade towards the abdomen of Aknar.

With his face still perplexed by the challenge, Aknar watched the altered glance of his friend's expression and realized that the attack was imminent. He twisted his body sideways and thrust his hand into Torakus' elbow. The blade's redirection defended the strike, but Torakus followed with a full, cross-level swipe.

Aknar jumped back in time and into a reverse hand spring. Torakus hesitated only a moment before he gave chase. Aknar landed on his back foot and twisted around to direct his sprint forward just as another swipe cut through the back of his uniform.

Aknar jumped forward, dove into a roll, and grabbed his weapon. He raised it up just in time to meet the blade of Torakus. Using his momentum, Aknar thrust his legs up to catch the hips of the other.

Torakus flew over and relaxed the grasp of his weapon to catch his fall. Aknar extended his to loop around the curved end of the other and pulled it free. With Torakus weaponless on his back, he looked up to see that Aknar pointed both down upon him.

"Why Torakus? Is this challenge more important than our friendship?" Aknar brought a hand back, and extended his fingers around the handle to withdraw an item from his pocket. He threw it towards his friend.

Torakus grabbed the photo and recalled the image of them when they were five. He looked back at Aknar and replied, "It wasn't my choice. He ordered us to fight and I was afraid that you would kill me."

“You always have a choice.” Aknar looked up at his master. "I refuse to kill my friend for your academy or for anything that you might offer me."

The master clapped his hands. "Congratulations! You have shown principle above all else and will be educated to be a leader of our world."

"And my friend?"

"He will also be educated at the academy, but only as an instructor. As with myself, his selfishness has dictated that he can not be trusted in a leadership position." He shifted his gaze towards Torakus and said, "However, if he does not accept this honor or decides to speak out about the details of the ninth challenge, he will be deemed a criminal and utilized for a future challenge. Do you both accept this outcome?"

From both, "Yes, master."

"In that case, Sir Aknar, it's been an honor serving you and your friend."


message 9: by Carrie (new)

Carrie Zylka (carriezylka) | 221 comments 9,412 by Carrie Zylka 648 words



“Again!” The stern woman shouted at him, her voice seeming far away but sharp in his ear nonetheless.

Jimmy squeezed his eyes shut and concentrated. His body was buoyant in the warm water. But the occasional droplet on his face distracted him from the task at hand. He tried again to concentrate, but the water on his cheek was cooling rapidly, creating a focal point. He felt the tiny bead dance daintily on eleven strands of hair on his face, he didn’t dare move for fear he’d disrupt the precise balance.

“Increase the water temp.” He heard her say.

“No!” He stated vehemently. “I can do it. I just need a moment.” He knew the DNA infused water was delicate. Raising the temperature could damage the fragile strands. He was dismayed to find his sudden outburst had dislodged the water droplet.

But at least he could focus once more.

He closed his eyes and stilled his mind, breathing in through his nose, and out through his mouth. He let his mind drift outward, like an oil slick skimming the top of the water.

While his mind pushed outward his body pulled in, slowly absorbing strands of carefully constructed DNA. The tiny enhanced molecules were eager to do their job, to find a willing host that would put them to good use.

And Jimmy was more than happy to oblige.

He sighed as he felt the rush of energy. He could almost feel the strands being absorbed, and winced as he remembered all the failed attempts, and the pain that accompanied them.

He could feel the modified nucleotides doing their job as the DNA sequences burst into action. Each with a particular job, but all working towards the same goal.

He swelled as they provided the necessary instructions, information his body took in and processed faster than anyone could have ever anticipated.

The molecular war raging inside his body offered the fuel needed to perform his task. He refocused his mind and pushed farther outwards. Seeking…seeking….the sheer ecstasy of what his mind could accomplish nearly killed him.

He burst through the ceiling into the open air, his brain imagining the feel of rushing air against his body, making goose bumps form on his physical body back in the pool.

He knew the destination and like a wraith his mind moved, covering distances in a blink of an eye. From somewhere he thought he heard “He’s got it now.”

Effortlessly entering the building and pausing in the office, he looked around, confused. She should be here. Where was she? He leaked out into the hallway, pausing at doors to peer inside, searching…seeking.

His actual body vibrated as he spied her.

The target never stood a chance against him. His mind wrapped around hers and squeezed.

Jimmy shot to his feet, spraying water everywhere. Violently gasping, his chest heaved as he tried to gulp in as much air as he could, his body vibrating with still unleashed energy now desperate to roam free.

He clenched his fists and held them against his thighs, willing his body to stop. What had once been a pleasurable experience suddenly turned into a horrific one as he felt as though his body was shifting beneath his skin. His brain burned hot with the influx of power and he wanted to vomit.

The stern woman stepped in front of him and cupped his face. That small gesture brought him back to the here and now.

“Is it done?” She asked softly.

He nodded once, and she snatched her hand back before the water from his wet hair, dislodged by the movement, could touch her fingers. She touched her ear piece. “You can mark training subject 9,412 a success.”

Jimmy could hear the tinny voice as if he was standing beside him. “10-4. Soon we’ll have enough to launch the offensive. They’ll never know what hit them.”


message 10: by Greg (new)

Greg Krumrey (gkrumrey) | 169 comments Imagine there’s nothing to kill or die for, imagine all the beings living life in peace.

I was 3 miles from the oil rig when I heard the sound that no helicopter pilot wants to hear: Metal grinding on metal. The cockpit Plexiglas shattered and water rushed in.

I awoke in the sea with something pushing me to the surface. I was trying to figure out how I was still alive when a fin passed within a foot of me. On the other side, another large grey mass zipped by. I saw a red cloud hovering around my right hand and thought, “I am so screwed.”

I looked at the fins again – there were 4 of them now – and realized something wasn’t right. As if to confirm my suspicions, one of the creatures breached and landed a few feet away, creating a massive spray of white water. Dolphins. For whatever reason, I was being corralled.By dolphins. They stayed with me through the night until rescuers arrived with the dawn.
--
Ten years and three careers later, neuroscience had bridged the gap and we could communicate with the same magnificent creatures that had saved my life and I was part of that research project.

Their latest “ambassadors from the sea” spent hours in the interface. They seemed to have an insatiable appetite for knowledge of us even as we learned everything we could learn about them.

I had an insatiable appetite for one of my fellow researchers. I had always had to dial down my intelligence to avoid intimidating others, but not with her. Sometimes I had trouble keeping up with her. She had helped me with the neuro interface and worked out the basic framework for communicating with the dolphins.
--
As all good things, the research project ended. The dolphins seemed resigned, even indifferent. She was too. Was I the only one upset by this?

We floated in the same man-made cove where the project began. The gentle waves and the setting sun contrasted with the dread I was feeling.

“I’m not from here,” She said.“Not this country. Not this planet. Not even this solar system. It was not just First Contact for them, it is for us too. We sought out intelligent life and we found it. Both in them and in you. But intelligence isn’t the only or even the best criteria for who is the fittest, who should survive.”

Suddenly, it seemed obvious. The project wasn’t ending for her people or the dolphins, just for us.

“You’ll continue to communicate to them,” I pointed to a pod cruising the cove, “but not us?”

“No. We’re taking them with us.”

I felt a sensation I hadn’t felt since high school. Was it for her leaving, the greatest discovery on the planet becoming meaningless or a loss of the only other intelligent life on our planet? Or was it being a member of a race that is being rejected, left behind?
“Why them? What makes them better? Look at what humans have accomplished, all the knowledge we’ve accumulated.”

Her words were non-judgmental, gentle even as they conveyed the harsh reality: “Look at your history, your news. Humans live and breathe violence. One on one violence, hundreds of times a day in your cities. Leaders who maim and murder to stay in power. Knowledge that is used to create weapons so terrible, they could make your planet uninhabitable.”

“They feel the same emotions as you, including fear and anger. Yet they do not hold grudges or seek vengeance. Even after learning of your slaughter of thousands of them, they will still hold a sailor afloat and draw rescuers to them.”

“What of us? What happens to me, all the other humans?”

“There is not an asteroid with your name on it, if that is what you mean. We are taking them to save them from humanity. It will end the on-going slaughter and, if humanity destroys the planet, they will survive.”

She floated over to me and put her arms around me. The three dolphins in the pool began circling us, bringing that gentle calm again.
--
At first, the fishermen thought it was a mass migration or a local extinction. After several months without a single sighting, we knew the dolphins were really gone.

As for me, I’m working on the SETI project now. A brilliant scientist joined the team. She and I get along like old friends, but I have trouble keeping up with her at times.


message 11: by Jot (new)

Jot Russell | 1093 comments Mod
Time is up. Please cast your vote.


message 12: by Jot (new)

Jot Russell | 1093 comments Mod
First round votes:
C. Lloyd Preville => Carrie
Justin Sewall => Greg, Chris, Tom
Marianne G Petrino => Paula, Chris, Greg
Tom Olbert => Jot, Justin, Paula, Chris
Paula Friedman => **Tom, Chris
Chris Nance => **Tom, Marianne, C
Jot Russell => Marianne
Carrie Zylka => Justin, Paula, Marianne, Tom, Jot
Greg Krumrey => Chris

Winner
Whose Line is it, Anyway? by Tom Olbert


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