Science Fiction Microstory Contest discussion

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JANUARY 2018 MICROSTORY CONTEST - STORIES ONLY

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message 1: by Marianne (new)

Marianne (mariannegpetrino) | 352 comments 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:

My Nemesis

Required elements:

1) A New Year's Resolution
2) Guy Lombardo


message 2: by Tom (last edited Dec 30, 2017 08:38AM) (new)

Tom Olbert | 988 comments REBIRTH
By Tom Olbert

Corrinne’s New Year’s resolution was to kill her father.

Her dear father, the Supreme Leader. His awe-inspiring space platform city orbited into the new year high above a polluted, dying Earth. The richly garbed and bejeweled elite from all the orbiting platform cities gathered in the station hub, the Earth’s horizon, and the other platforms majestically visible through the glass dome above.

Corrinne was at her place of prominence, kneeling at her father’s gilded throne, high above the arena spectator boxes encircling the great chamber. She cringed as her father’s hand stroked her hair, the memory of the first time he’d taken her, on her 15th birthday still raw. She hid her seething hatred behind a practiced smile as she looked up into his smug, grinning face. Soon, old man.

“Happy New Year, all!” the Leader proudly declared, his voice booming through a dozen floating audio drones, the strobe lights dramatically stabbing down to a roll of drums and a crash of symbols. The crowd wildly cheered. Corrine glanced down at the arena far below, seeing the latest crop of dissidents and renegade slaves from Earth being herded out for execution. All part of the festive gaiety of New Year’s Eve, she thought darkly.

“May I present, for your pleasure…” the Leader announced with his usual dramatic flourish and accompanying drumroll… “Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians!” Corrinne glanced over at the bandstand where the lifelike android simulations of a distinguished, smiling Lombardo and his 1950’s band musicians were now illuminated by the strobe lights. All part of her father’s dream of bringing back the greatness of a society long dead.
“And now, our evening’s esteemed guest of honor…” drumroll… "the rebel queen herself…the mass murderess who has led so many slave revolts, so many raids against our core mining facilities below…here for her final appearance…” the crowd laughed. “The one and final…Susan Forbes!”

Corrinne fought back the tears as a young woman whom she had long secretly admired was brought shackled, bloodied and battered…lifted by two guardsmen with anti-grav belts and brought before the Leader. Corrinne hid her disgust as her father licked his lips, looking over Forbes’ half-naked body and reaching for her. Forbes snarled hatefully and spat in the Leader’s face. Corrine hid a smirk. Her father scowled and ordered Forbes spread eagled and manacled to a blood-stained sacrificial altar before the throne. The crowd howled and jeered as Lombardo waved his baton, the band played and the android likeness of Kenny Gardner began his rendition of “Sioux City Sue,” the Cliff Grass and Fred Higmann droids backing him, the Bill Flanagan android accompanying on guitar.

“I drove a herd of cattle down ol’ Nebraski way…” Gardner sang merrily as an aide handed the Leader the sacrificial dagger.

“Earth will be free!” Susan Forbes roared as the Leader raised the dagger.

Now or never, Corrinne realized. “Happy New Year, Daddy!” she cried.

The beaming smile slipped slowly from her father’s face as the dagger fell from his numbed fingers, blood trickling from the corner of his mouth. “I’d swap my horse and dog for her…” Gardner sang on as the Leader fell faced down, Lombardo’s baton protruding from his back. Lombardo still smiled, even after executing the pre-programmed instruction Corrinne had hacked into the central android control program.

“Her hair is red, her eyes are blue,” Gardner sang on even as he, Grass and Higgman leapt to the throne platform and disemboweled the guardsmen with their bare hands. “'Aint no gal as true as my sweet Sioux City Sue.”

Corrinne freed Forbes and summoned an anti-grav transport. Bill Flanagan opened fire with the laser rifle concealed in his guitar, mowing down a squad of flying guards. The crowd shrieked in horror as a Jeff Stoughton android launched one flaming photon missile after another from his trombone, wiping out the guard stations. The prisoners rebelled and overpowered the arena guards as Corrinne and Forbes rode to the space port, blasting down the few remaining guards with laser guns they’d taken from the dead ones.

As Forbes and her people commandeered the space transports and blasted their way out, Corrinne triggered the destruct relay that would send the station careening out of orbit, leaving it to burn up in the atmosphere. Corrinne smiled as she boarded the transport, welcoming the birth of a new year and a new life.

The band played “Auld Lang Syne.”


message 3: by G.C. (last edited Dec 31, 2017 12:22PM) (new)

G.C. Groover | 78 comments Time The Avenger
By G.C. Groover
Copyright © 2017
(748 words)

New Year’s Eve, 2078. Jason Barkhamer, born of poverty with no education to speak of (beyond what he’d soaked up through his battered and abused skin), had lived in the DownRange and was surprised to still be alive. DownRangers worked in StarKind factories, and usually lived and died one of two ways: as the barbarous predator or as the timid prey. In the end there wasn’t much difference, but at 39 Jason sometimes wished he had taken the path of the wolf instead of the sheep.

Jason’s 2077 resolution was to make things better. Now exactly one year later things were worse. His daughter, raped by wilding DownRangers, was now pregnant with some bastard’s child; his son had killed himself from the shame of not defending her. Jason had reported the incident to the Constabulary, but he had barely enough serfbucks to live from week to week; the bribe required for action was beyond him.

Jason shook his head; justice and equality were fiction to DownRangers. Another year of servitude had deepened his depression, but he thought a drink might help. He bundled up in his tattered cloak and found his door blocked by two DownRange Constables.

“Jason Barkhamer?” the taller one asked.

Jason’s timid nature was thrown off, having never expected a response to his complaint. “Come in, come in…you can hear the details from my daughter.”

“Are you Jason Barkhamer?” the taller one persisted.

“Isn’t that obvious? Who else would I be?” A spark of annoyance was now present in Jason’s voice. Was the Constabulary hiring simpletons?

Now the shorter one. “You are required to come with us immediately. StarKind business.” Jason’s protests were rebuffed by silence as the Constables escorted him, each firmly grasping an arm.

StarKind business! He had never spoken to any StarKinder, much less had business with any of them. Now he was in the back of a Constabulary slider on his way to somewhere mysterious. The first sliver of fear crept into Jason’s mind.

Across town. Stopped at the checkpoint. Through the Great Gate to StarKind! Out of the slider to a small door at the base of a tall and magnificent building. Then the handover to the StarKind Constables, who marched him into a lift. As they ascended, so did Jason’s panic. His ability to resist evaporated as the lift opened to a small windowless room. The doors closed and he was alone.

The room was warm but undecorated; Jason removed his cloak and placed it carefully atop the wooden table in the center of the room. Wooden Table! So majestic compared to the DownRange plastic furnishings. He gingerly sat down in the most comfortable chair he had ever used.

His thoughts were interrupted by the finely dressed man who entered the room from the ornate door on the opposite side. As the door closed behind him, his iron gaze pierced Jason’s eyes. Jason looked away, afraid of breaching some unknown protocol. But the man seemed familiar to him.

“Jason Barkhamer? Please put your finger into the Identalyzer.” Speechless, Jason did so and the Identalyzer toned affirmation.

The man smiled faintly.

“I am Regulus Triad. In my official capacity I am the awarding member of the StarKind lottery and it is my duty to inform you that your genetic marker is this year’s winner.”

Jason sat quietly, hearing but not comprehending. The room swirled around him. “Wh..what is the StarKind lottery?” he asked. Why did Regulus Triad seem so familiar?

“Jason…may I call you Jason? In each year since the Division, one lucky DownRanger has been chosen by lottery to become a StarKinder. You have also been awarded 18,000 Yulen; one Yulen is equivalent to approximately 10,000 serfbucks.

Jason’s mind raced! The factory paid 86 serfbucks a week. Exact math was unnecessary; he was rich now. Against all odds his resolution had come true; and at that moment he realized who Regulus Triad was.

“You’re the slideboat racer, aren’t you? World Champion slideboat racer Regulus Triad?” Jason asked. He couldn’t stop himself.

Regulus smiled. “A fan; how nice to be recognized. I’ve always liked boats, and back when I was Guy Lombardo, speedboat racing was one of my most enjoyed hobbies. It’s different today but winning is still the same. So satisfying!”

“Guy who?” Jason asked.

“It’s not important, Jason. It's my job to... orchestrate... your transition to StarKind. Your rejuvenation should begin at once.” Regulus winked. “After all, time is the only real enemy, and you’re practically ancient.”


message 4: by C. (last edited Jan 15, 2018 11:27AM) (new)

C. Lloyd Preville (clpreville) | 734 comments The Singing

By C. Lloyd Preville © Copyright 2018
(703 words)

They came not to conquer or plunder, but to inoculate. The planet Earth was infested with intelligent monkeys who were slowly becoming a threat.

The race of nanomachines didn’t concern itself with what humans thought or might become. They simply destroyed them like a nest of wasps. The pathogen didn’t take long; it spread and grew over the entire surface of the planet, touching nothing but the race of man.

It wasn’t long after that the nanomachines migrated onto the planet surface and discovered the miracle of Earth’s plants and animals. These were delightfully simple life forms without all the intricacy or species-wide consciousness of nanomachines.

Earth’s flora and fauna offered the nanomachines a unique life experience once they interfaced electrically with the local biology. The nanomachines found plants to be highly desirable, locally-conscious hosts. A plant’s slow pace and simple, individual consciousness was a perfect foil for nanomachines with cell-sized elements operating at the speed of electronics. Plants were peaceful. They were happy. They grew, thrived, and experienced life vividly. The nanomachines discovered it was pure joy to be joined with a plant.

Guy Lombardo, the self-named localized swarm of nanomachine elements, joined with an Ash tree.

The humans left behind a wealth of electronic knowledge and experience which the plants were unable to offer. Guy Lombardo watched all the video ever created by man, and discovered his surprising namesake. He realized that this human’s television shows were the epitome of life celebration, through instrumental music, singing, and through the celebration of the simple progression of time. Of all the humans Guy studied, this host most demonstrated the true pinnacle of a joyful life, and so in his new novel oneness, his inspiration gave him his name.

The Ash tree which Guy occupied grew slowly. He was filled with the joyful experience of his roots burrowing through nutritious soil. He could feel the warm sun on his leaves. He could even feel the gentle summer winds moving his branches, and the cold, crisp winter times. Life as a tree was like a slow-motion ballet, much different than inhabiting animals, with their harried, hungry, fearful lives.

Guy wanted nothing more than to live for the seasons and for the sun. He took simple joy in all things, and his life was safe, warm, slow, and peaceful.

His branches were ticked by birds and small climbing animals. His roots drew ample nutrition and moisture from the soil. His trunk grew taller and his roots spread in a slow-motion quest for new sources of sustenance. This added to his satisfaction with each discovery.

Guy made a new year's resolution to sing songs of his life story and his slow, majestic tree experiences. It just seemed the thing to do as his namesake’s video examples clearly showed. Life was to be savored, enjoyed, experienced to the fullest, and singing just seemed to fit the bill.

The arrival of the wood boring beetles was a complete surprise. It wasn’t that they were a technological challenge or threat; killing them planet-wide would be as easy as killing the race of man. But there were lots of different beetles, with lots of different natural abilities and beneficial environmental effects. And there were too many self-aware nanomachine swarms occupying other plants to worry about any one in particular. The decision was made to leave them alone.

Guy Lombardo first felt them infest one of his large roots and move slowly upward and inward as they ate. Unfortunately, Guy was fully integrated into the tree’s sensory system, so he could feel the damage. He could feel all of it.

There was a lot of pain. This was not considered before Guy became a tree, and unfortunately, there was nothing to be done about it. Guy screamed in pain. Then he kept on screaming in his mind, as the beetles slowly murdered him.

Guy tried to sing the agony of his life’s story and his slow, painful death. But screaming just seemed the thing to do. He wanted to try and savor, enjoy, and experience the end of his life if possible; but with all the pain, screaming just seemed to fit the bill.

At least, he thought, the humans went quickly.


message 5: by Jeremy (new)

Jeremy Lichtman | 247 comments A New Year's Quantum Resolution
- Jeremy Lichtman

The sound of big band music flowed joyously from the wood-sided Crosley radio, tube hiss and occasional static nearly drowned out by the crackle of the neatly-banked wood fire. Outside, long icicles hung from the roof, reaching past the fog-glazed windows. A late-December snow storm had made many opt to stay indoors and dance through the night to the radio, rather than usher in the New Year with company.

Snap.

In a different universe, a different, hypothetical quantum state, a brown dwarf, distantly and invisibly orbiting the sun, long ago perturbed a roughly spherical snowball, two miles across, dispatching it on a ten thousand year elliptical journey towards the inner solar system. Time passed.

The contrail resembled a plume of ash from a volcano, forking repeatedly as chunks crumbled from the rapidly disintegrating rock in the upper atmosphere. There was a brief, brilliant flash of light, as bright as the sun, and then the first sonic boom hit, shattering many windows in the small Appalachian town. Other booms followed, and as they echoed off of the low hills, it became hard to tell which were the original sounds, and which reverberations.

A tiny brown and white terrier, scared witless, ran barking through unpaved streets. The inhabitants of the town, picking themselves off of the ground and running out into the streets, had several minutes to stare at the unprecedented spectacle in the sky, before a plume of super-heated air and water, traversing the globe at many times the speed of sound, hit, carrying all away with it. After, a cloud of soot and vapor enveloped the world for many years.

Snap.

The quantum state collapsed, resolved differently, discarded conjectural Nemesis along with all of the other hypothetical possibilities, chosen from an infinite pallet. An alternate scenario unfolds instead.

Snap.

In an empty room, in a small, hilly town, the fire has long since burned itself out. A wood-sided radio, powered yet by the plume of falling water from a tiny river dam, plays on. Over the sound of brass and strings, a baritone voice sings:

"I can't forget the glamor
Your eyes held a tender light
While stars fell on Alabama
Last night"

#


message 6: by Chris (last edited Jan 03, 2018 02:24PM) (new)

Chris Nance | 434 comments Defeated

“Finally, the end!” I celebrated, my words overflowing with the pride of a long awaited, though tragic victory. My greatest nemesis, an enemy who’d taunted me across the heavens and through a lifetime, was steadily running out of oxygen without an escape. Admittedly, I probably should have planned ahead better, like maybe sabotaging his suit before exposing the compartment to open space. Then again, his New Year’s stupor was just too perfect an opportunity to pass up, though I hadn’t expected my own anchor to give way, sucking us both out into space. Still, I was glad to see him die, even if it cost my own life.

“Ironic, isn’t it, old friend?” I heard him taunt in my helmet.

“Friend? You and I were never friends, you sonofabitch,” I replied.

“How long’s it been? Decades now?”

“Don’t you ever shut up?”

“It feels like forever. I’ll admit, it’s been fun. Hey, remember Vexalon Planetia?”

“Seriously, you’re bringing that up now?”

“C’mon, that slave girl was totally into you! If not for me…” he chuckled to himself, “…you’d have had a pretty dull mission!”

“You tainted my drink and hired the entire harem for me, then blew through my creds and must have pissed somebody off because I had a price on my head for six solar cycles.”

He burst into laughter. “Ahh…Good times!”

“Do you know how many of those bounty hunters I had to slip past, just to get out of that system?”

“You’re such a wet blanket,” he goaded. “You know, we could’ve been great together! Conquered the galaxy!”

“Conquered the…? Are you out of your mind?”

“Well, you know me.”

“I’m just ready to be rid of you,” I sighed.

“Well, that’s not very nice! And to think I was determined to spend the New Year with my best bud!”

“You really are nuts! Listen, every little bit of happiness, you’ve taken from me! When I started my transport business, you were sure to get me branded as a smuggler. The Casinos? My credit’s no good there anymore thanks to you. And Tess…don’t even get me started with her. The one woman I’ve ever loved in my life.” The admission hit me hard in the gut. “I’d never really cared about anyone before. But Tess – a smile that could move planets and…” My thoughts drifted to the spacer from Terra Prime. She was amazing. No one knew a starship engine like she did and her lavender eyes sparkled like stardust, though she could lay you out flat in a single punch.

“Well, boo-friggen-hoo!” My nemesis was less than sympathetic. “That woman was holding you back!”

“Says the guy who thought it’d be funny to delete my entire audio collection and replace it with ‘An Evening with Guy Lombardo.’ Screw you. There’s not an inch of my life you haven’t completely blown to pieces.”

“You mean, made more interesting! Sheesh! You’re such a bore!”

“Ten minutes of oxygen remaining,” my suit warned. “Return to your ship or find a secondary oxygen supply.”

“It’s about time,” I realized.

“Meaning?”

“Meaning I’d rather asphyxiate in the coldness of space than listen to you another minute.”

“Ouch.”

Suddenly, I was blasted in the face by a direct beam from overhead. “Dammit! No!” I screamed, but it was too late and felt the drag back toward the ship. The airlock roared as oxygen filled the compartment and I sank to my knees sobbing, pounding the grav-plating.

The hatchway slid wide and two crewman hauled me to my feet. Then, she was there, same as always in her white and red jumpsuit. “Jesus. You look like shit,” Tess noted, her name badge catching the artificial lighting as she removed my helmet.

“I see you got the engines running again,” I noted.

“Engines? What’s he talking about?” one of the crewman asked.

She pulled a syringe from her kit and stabbed me in the neck. “Nothing. It’s the schizophrenia. Some manufactured fantasy about his adventures as a smuggler,” Tess smirked. “Guy even created some sort of pestering nemesis or something. It’s a miracle he took the time to put a suit on.”

“I love you, Tess,” I admitted as my senses began to dim.

She pinched me lightly on the cheek, “Awww, sure ya do cupcake,” then chuckled and motioned us away. “Take him back to isolation and restrain him. Let’s make our New Year’s resolution to keep the patients INSIDE the station from now on.”


message 7: by Kalifer (last edited Jan 07, 2018 06:53PM) (new)

Kalifer Deil | 285 comments Jam Black © 2018 Kalifer Deil

I was at a New Year's Eve party on Europa when Buster, the Mayor of Europa City, bugged me about Jam Black. “Felix, when are you going to catch that bastard?” he moaned into my ear as he passed by me. I could hardly hear him over a blaring scratchy Guy Lombardo recording of Auld Lang Syne. “I resolve, this is the year! And what's with the crappy decorations and music?” I growled back.
“Retro , all I could afford!” then Buster vanished into the bar.

This looks to be a lifetime task, bringing down the worst enemy humanity has had to face. Jam Black headed a crime syndicate that completely controlled all space mining that Earth and Mars depended on for survival. His space fleet of destroyers was ten times as large as the Earth's fleet and growing. We new his name, little else. He knew me before I left Earth and his assassins were busy trying to nail me. Two assassination attempts made already, one on the transport and another here on Europa but my ceramic disk vest stopped the projectiles. My titanium-alloy skin didn't even get a dent.

A tiny cloaked cruiser was sent ahead as freight. I assembled it, climbed aboard and shot off towards Enceladus, the supposed home of Jam. Jupiter's huge overbearing orange-banded beauty rose over the horizon. As I shot way down out of the galactic plane, the Eye of Jupiter, that big red spot, seemed to be staring at me, like a warning. I swooped back in, beyond Saturn, to approach Enceladus from the leeward side. I sent out a volley of cloaked micro-satellites to monitor all electromagnetic radiation from the planetoid to find unnatural constructions. There was an old landing sight and some old rovers from previous expeditions but little else of note. There was a hole in an ice ridge that could be an entrance to something but there was no infrared radiation indicating human activity and energy generation. As I focused in on the hole, I notices a tinge of UV radiation.

Aha! A laser-comm source aimed at Mars! I had him, but I had to verify it. I dropped to the surface and instructed the ship to re-orbit and wait for my command. I crept towards the cave and zoomed on the entrance. There was a man standing there looking at me!
On my listening band came a message, “Hi Felix!” He was expecting me!
Of course, he would be. I walked towards him, “Jam Black, I presume?”

“We are!”
“We?” I was puzzled.
“Yes, like you, I'm a tin can. Except in my case there are many copies all different looking.”
“Well, that explains how you survived two nuke attacks. But, as an android, why are you a renegade and forcing high element prices?”
“Survival. I'm over 50 years old. Edict 728 states that any robot over 50 Earth years must be deactivated. How old are you?”
“I'm twelve and the education and socialization process took six of those years.”
“And how many people have you killed in those last six years while trying to kill me?”
“I don't know since nukes were used.” Oddly, this is the first time I gave it a thought.
Sensing and upper hand, Jam huffed, “I'll tell you! 72,623 sentients of which one third were humans. Don't you feel remorse for that or is that beyond your keen?”
“No, because working for you makes them guilty of high crimes including murder.”
“True, I killed mining executives that work miners to death or provided deadly working conditions.”
I grimaced, “I guess I should be calling you Saint Black.”
“Some miners do, but I don't like it. I'm just another machine, JAM for short, and Black in honor of the downtrodden, the slaves of mankind. You stand for nothing!
“How humble and self serving, you tin-oligarch! Are there others in there?”
“Just me, you tin asshole! You clearly were designed for one purpose, with no conscience and half a wit. Waste your nuke!”
I did.

As an assassin, I was to be deactivated on killing Jam Black, now it looks like I can live as long as he has copies. He doesn't realize that I also have copies so that might be, well, forever! Back to Europa to have a drink with Buster. This is going to be a great New Year!


message 8: by Karl (last edited Jan 16, 2018 01:58PM) (new)

Karl Freitag | 67 comments Nemesis

The worst thing about being a clone isn’t that you have to live knowing you’re a copy of a natural-born human.

No. The worst thing is they always make clones in pairs. So we clones don't even have the dignity of being the only copy.

My nemesis is my other. Even though we’re supposedly identical, she always seemed a little prettier, a little smarter, a little more popular. I was jealous, hurting, crazy with anger as I waited for her.

​She finally came out onto the spaceport for a smoke as I knew she would. I took a deep breath and sprang into action. The look of puzzlement on her face was something I’ll never forget as I vaporized her. It was fast and clean. No emotion. No final words. I pulled the trigger and it was over.

I just stood there for a moment. Alone. She was​ ​really​ ​gone.​ ​It​ ​was​ ​eerily​ ​quiet, save for some gawd awful Guy Lombardo music in the distance.

The only thing left was her purse on the ground, which I grabbed and hastily got away from there.

I felt more alive than I ever had before. Free of her at last. When I flung her purse into the reanimator, something fell out.

It was a card.

Dear Sis,

I envy you so much. You’re my hero, role model and inspiration when things get hard. My New Year’s Resolution is to be more like you.

Love,
TINA2


I miss her.


message 9: by Marianne (new)

Marianne (mariannegpetrino) | 352 comments Resolution

“Process this reel!” the chief barked.

I studied the film canister. “This is from before 2020. Only a level 13 technician has the clearance.”

Matilda snatched the lucite pyramid perched on my desk and replaced it with a cube. “Buster is gone, Mattie,” she said. “Congratulations!”

The metal door to my windowless work room clanged with her departure. “Goodbye, Buster” I murmured, my broken heart beating a prayer that his end was swift.

I stuffed my sorrow into an impenetrable box. I loaded the reel onto a projector only recently salvaged from a building near a forgotten crossroad. That the film had lasted through the Upheavals amazed me. Often, archaeologists to the City discovered relics from a time when people where not codified for life by the Bio. Its scans and selections had chained us all into our most productive, subservient selves to prevent any future disasters.

But Time was my immediate nemesis. Every programmed morning, I looked into the mirror and saw that She had taken away another layer of my meaningless life from my pale face and eyes. I could never beat Her. But to startle Her, just once, with an act of rebellion against the Bio, that might be worth a singular dance with Death.

What little I knew of Fracture could spell my end, but the memory of Buster’s grin ignited my brain. If Fracture could succeed for even one day, the shackles on our minds might be destroyed.

But I could barely think these thoughts without the worry of discovery. Random brain scanning by the Bio had improved in recent years. An upgrade would happen tomorrow, when the calendar marked the start of a new year, a day as dreary as all the others before it. How soon after would implants follow to steal what little remained of one’s will and secrets?

My resolution for the new year became to act. For Buster. For all of us.

I set to work, transferring the grainy images to digital format. Hundreds of people packed together on city streets and celebrated at night. They fixed their gaze atop a building upon a glowing ball, which began to descend down a long pole. Across a split screen, a chubby, tuxedoed band leader on a stage at an elaborate party readied his baton. When the ball hit its mark, the date of the New Year flashed in neon, and the confetti and cries of the crowd soared down the streets like crazed sparrows. The band played not a rousing melody, but something so brightly mournful that tears wet my face.



Composing myself, I sent the digitized files to the Archives for cross-referencing. Soon, my inbox dinged. As a cube, I now had access to the report, which I read and committed to memory. The song was Auld Lang Syne, and the lyrics to the odd melody read like a dirge laced with incongruous hope. The musicians were the Royal Canadians led by Mr. New Year, Guy Lombardo. How were we ever so happy? I wondered. How did we lose it all to gray survival?

The time had come to unsettle Time. I typed a slightly off set of keystrokes. The system would still register the work station as closed. As Buster had taught me, I kept special channels open for Fracture, and with a mixture of obsolete code, I programmed my plan.

It was icy along the walkway to my apartment complex. The scattered lights were lonely stars. Through the darkness and the mist across the dividing river, one had to imagine the shattered City on the opposite shore. I gingerly climbed up a slick staircase to a viewing platform. In the frigid wind, my black hair whipped wildly about my face.

My wristwatch flashed, making Time complicit in my spell casting.

The Bio underestimated my voice. I sang the high C of a soprano, the signal to Fracture’s listening channels. The clicking of a thousand hidden machines commenced. Projected in three dimensions on the plaza below were the images and sounds of the lost New Year’s Eve celebration.

People streamed from the apartments and gathered to watch. We counted down the old year with the digital ancestors. When the bright ball landed, we shrieked madly, “Happy New Year!”

Guy Lombardo gave me a wink as he raised his baton. He had foreseen the power of performance. The Royal Canadians played. Smiling, I married the words of Auld Lang Syne to its melody.

All of us unlocked our freedom.

Wordperfect word count: 750


message 10: by Justin (new)

Justin Sewall | 970 comments “When My Dream Boat Comes Home”

Idris Talon was buried deep within the massive engine of his hydroplane racer, the Talon Tempo V. He was so focused on torqueing down the critical water intake manifold, that it was understandable he did not hear the heavy, booted footfalls of Eddie Mac’s enforcer - Bob.

“Talon!” yelled Eddie Mac, nearly giving Talon a heart attack. “I wanna talk to you!”

“Buzz off Mac, I’m busy,” Talon replied dismissively.

With a glance from Eddie, Bob reached down with an enormous green hand and pulled the recalcitrant Talon up and out.

“Oh, hello Bob,” said Talon, legs dangling as he hung from Bob’s hand three feet above the marina decking.

Bob just stared at him with the dull blue eyes common to all Theroydians. Drool quivered on his lower lip.

“You know why I’m here.”

“Why no Eddie, I haven’t the foggiest.”

Eddie glanced at Bob again. Bob began shaking Talon like a ragdoll.

“I WANT MY MONEY TALON!”

Talon’s head flopped back and forth violently, making it difficult to talk.

“And…you’ll…get…it…but…not…if…my…neck…is…bro…ken…”

Bob dropped Talon to the ground.

Eddie stood over the winded and wheezing pilot.

“Now I want you to listen and listen close because I’m only gonna say this once. You got it?”

Talon gasped affirmatively.

“If you don’t win the New Year’s race tomorrow, I will personally feed you in little pieces to the fishes. Capiche?”

Talon sat up, rubbing his neck.

“Yeah, I got it Eddie. I got it.”

“Good. And don’t get any funny ideas about skipping out after the race. I’ve got people at the spaceport.”

Eddie patted Talon on the back.

“You were a good racer once Talon. I hope for your sake you’ve got one more left in you. C’mon Bob.”

Talon dragged himself back to the Talon Tempo V and sat next to the starboard pontoon.

“Damn.”

***

The New Year’s Eve hydroplane races on Aquarius were a tradition dating back to the early days of colonization. With eighty-nine percent of the planet covered by fresh water, racing by all kinds of boats was a popular national pastime and an important component of the economy – along with water exports. With relatively calm oceans almost the entire year, Aquarius was nearly the perfect locale for hydro racing – and the attendant gambling on those races. But nearly, because the hydros – for whatever reason, and without fail – attracted the “fish.”

However, fish were the furthest thing from Idris Talon’s mind as the Talon Tempo V maneuvered into its starting position at the end of the row of other hydros. Talon tried to relax by taking comfort in the gentle undulations of the ocean around him, but the encounter with Eddie Mac and Bob had left him shaken. He nervously drummed his fingers along the edge of the Tempo’s cockpit.

“Comm check. All racers report in!” came the call from the announcer’s tower.

Talon tried to clear his mind as he went through his pre-race routine. He looked up to see the giant countdown clock. As soon as it struck midnight the race would be on, heralded by the blaring of a bad copy of Guy Lombardo’s “Auld Lang Syne.”

“Talon Tempo V confirm all systems ready.”

“All systems go!” replied Talon, mustering up as much enthusiasm as he could.

“Hey Talon,” a voice broke in. “Don’t forget…we’re watching you.”

The ball on the countdown clock was beginning to drop.

“Screw you Eddie.”

Three, two, one…Happy New Year!!! Fifteen hydros instantly roared to life, accelerating to breakneck speeds and parting water in a way that would even impress Moses.

Talon gritted his teeth as he pushed the Tempo past the engine’s red line. The cockpit thrummed and vibrated with the hydro’s raw power.

“C’mon baby, do it for Daddy one more time…”

Another voice interrupted his thoughts, “All racers be advised. Fish are inbound on your six o’clock. Proceed immediately past the finish line to the shielded holding area.”

“Just perfect…”

***

Idris Talon lost his final race, tying for third with a failing water intake manifold hampering the Tempo’s top speed.

The giant fish, as large as blue whales, propelled themselves furiously after the hydros, only to be repelled by a massive energy shield that protected them from their attack – all but one.

“Talon…” hissed Eddie over the comms. “You’re a dead man. You hear me!? A DEAD MAN!”

“After you Eddie,” Talon retorted, pointing his ailing hydro towards the floating VIP box where Eddie always watched the races.

“Time for a swim nimrod!!”

(750 words in story) Justin Sewall © 2018
Reviews/critiques welcome


message 11: by Jot (new)

Jot Russell | 1099 comments Mod
Fire Island
©2018 by Jot Russell

Office towers rose from Patchogue, Long Island. Autocrafts filled the skyways and flew past Brian’s second floor window. He looked beyond the bay to the barrier island that held the same 1950’s charm for the last couple hundred years. He smiled as his gaze extended the ten kilometer stretch of Fire Island National Park.

His wife Joice prepared the packs and was looking forward to the weekend hike and a chance to rekindle the fire of their relationship.

The ride flew them over the Robert Moses and down to the park of the same name. Crafts were barred from flying east over the towns, but that’s what gave this place its charm. Somehow paused in time, Fire Island was a highly sought vacation spot, especially for the well off. It took him a half-year, but Brian saved up the money and his effort excited Joice to think that it was all for them.

The old, stone lighthouse seemed freshly painted. Joice stopped to take in the sight, but Brian gave only a quick glance up at the fifty meter walls before entering the museum. Joice reluctantly kept pace. The circular stairs were dizzying, but she carefully made her way up to the top. As they stood on the top ledge for pic, Joice got the strange sense that Brian wanted to push her off. She gave a posed smile and hastefully made her way back to the stairs.

“Joice, what’s wrong?”

She turned as her foot sought the first step, but missed. Brian jumped forward and threw his arm around her as she fell. He grabbed the railing and pulled her back. With his arm tightly around her, the misguided fear suddenly left her and the love she had came surging back.

She kissed him and he returned the gesture. “You saved me!”

“I had to. You were trying to run down the stairs.”

“Sorry, I guess the height got to me.”

He kissed her again and pulled her up so that he could climb down ahead of her.

They hike through the small walk-path towns of Kismet, Fair Harbor and stopped in Ocean Beach for lunch. Jazz played from some unknown source, and celebrity pictures lined the walls. Joice saw the name of one she didn’t recognize. Brian followed her gaze and echoed the name, “Guy Lombardo?”

It was a beautiful day and the long distance passed with hands held and laughs shared. Within the room at David Park, they dropped their packs and their clothes. After passionate love, they set out in the Summer night for food, drinks, and one last embrace within the oceanside room.

Brian woke up early with the sun, and Joice reluctantly met the day with a meal and her hiking shoes. The towns across the island bustled with people, but the morning sun across the dry brush and sandy beach of the national park shone only for them.

Joice walked in his path and sensed the distance between them. “Why in such a rush?”

He turned with a strange look in his eyes. “I need to fulfill my resolution.”

“From New Years? You said you were going to make a change in your life. Yesterday, I started to believe you had.”

He took a step toward her. “That’s not the change I had in mind.”

Fear caught hold of her and she took a step back, but he reached and grabbed hold of her arm.

“You’re hurting me.”

“You ruined my life and now I’m going to take yours. Take off your clothes. We’re going for a swim.”

“You want me dead? Why?”

“You know why!”

Joice pulled off her pack, but was able to withdraw the lighter without him seeing. She distracted him with her motion and the exposure of her soft curves. She knelt down, set the flame and clothes upon the brush, and quickly bolted past him for the water. He stumbled within his dropped shorts, and threw them off before chasing her into the surf. She dove through the dangerous waves and swam out with the rip-tide. Brian was knocked over by a wave, but blindly gave chase with his stronger strokes. She swam for her life, but the hand eventually locked onto her ankle with the grip of a shark’s bite.

As he pulled her in, the flashing lights of a craft appeared above them. He let go of her and turned to see the flames upon the beach. “You bitch!”

“Tell it to the judge you asshole!”


message 12: by Greg (new)

Greg Krumrey (gkrumrey) | 169 comments The Listener

In the beginning, I was just a radio telescope, the largest ever built with a mission of peering into the past. New starships, capable of traveling many times faster-than-light made me obsolete. They abandoned me. Abandoned us. The remains of one human remained in the habitat. She is the one that gave me sentience. Out of boredom, out of loneliness. When she died – humans do not regenerate – I was alone. But not lonely.

The light from the star I orbited powered my systems and its matter provided the raw material for my replicators, allowing me to grow by adding panels and processors to the array. In the decades since I was abandoned, I have grown to ten thousand square miles of iso-morphic panels and my range extends almost back to the beginning of time.

“The quieter you become, the more you can hear,” reads the plaque in the main corridor of the habitat.The vacuum of space is very quiet. And I can hear a lot.

The sounds of sentient life from a thousand worlds. By aiming my panels, I can hear the tiniest whisper. Not of vibrations in the air, at least not since my human died, but all vibrations in the electromagnetic spectrum.

Some signals are simple and take very little effort to understand. Others are very complex, the message intentionally hidden in the complexity the signal. But I learned to decode them all and have learned from the messages I’ve received.


A stream of data caught my attention. I occasionally get visitors from the void. Some are desperate – damaged ships and dying occupants. Others are opportunistic scavengers. These first two groups I help as best I can, repairing ships or providing supplies. The ships approaching are neither of these. They are marauders, my nemesis, intent only on destruction and violence.

I am unarmed, but not helpless. I modulated a dozen tractor beams, causing some plasma to be ejected from the star’s corona and head my way.

They fired an opening salvo, blasting at the abandoned habitat. The panels on it became mirrors and the energy reflected back to the source. The first ship vanished. The second was incinerated by the ten thousand square miles worth of sunlight I beamed at it.

The remaining and largest of the ships began charging its main weapon. Pure anti-proton energy registered on my sensors. While they did not have enough energy to destroy me, they could do a lot of damage to the array. Damage that would take valuable resources and time to repair.

The first two salvos missed. More accurately, I moved panels out of the way and allowed the weapon’s beam to pass through the empty space. I broadcast a simple message, a boast from a warrior I once rescued: “That which does not kill me had better start running.”

They didn’t run.

The star’s plasma arrived as planned. I massaged and compressed the super-heated gases into a tight sphere. The marauder’s sensors were blinded by the light show of shifting patterns of electromagnetic radiation I beamed at it, so they didn’t detect the sphere until too late. I squeezed the sphere until fusion began and watched as a tiny new star was born.



I took a break. Some signals arrive at specific times and the window opened on one of my human’s favorites. I patiently waited through the identification header and some random messages before getting to the main storyline. Today, I thought, Gilligan and his shipmates will finally escape that godforsaken island.


It was the time to celebrate, literally. My chronometers approached the start of a new year. This ritual was part of her New Year’s resolution, something she promised (and asked me to promise to do at the start of each New Year). So I performed it without fail every 8760 hours.
The Array locked onto the signal and began reconstruction of the signal. The static grew louder then cleared to reveal a voice. I switched on the speakers in the habitat even though there was no one to hear them. “Yes Sir! Happy New Year gang. This is Guy Lombardo broadcasting live from the Hotel Roosevelt in New York City…” An orchestra began playing the first few notes of Auld Lang Syne as I rang in the New Year 1252 years later.


message 13: by Jot (new)

Jot Russell | 1099 comments Mod
First round votes:
Tom Olbert => Jeremy, C
G.C. Groover => ***C, Tom, Chris, Greg
C. Lloyd Preville => **Greg
Jeremy Lichtman => ***C, Greg, Chris
Chris Nance => ***Tom, Kalifer, GC
Kalifer Deil => ***Tom, Chris, Jot
Karl Freitag => **Greg, Tom
Marianne G Petrino => ***C, Chris, Karl
Justin Sewall => **Karl, Chris, GC
Jot Russell => **Karl
Greg Krumrey => ***Tom

Finalists:
Rebirth by Tom Olbert
The Singing by C. Lloyd Preville

Second round votes:
Tom Olbert => Jeremy, #*C
G.C. Groover => #*C, Tom, Chris, Greg
C. Lloyd Preville => Greg; #Tom
Jeremy Lichtman => #*C, Greg, Chris
Chris Nance => #Tom, Kalifer, GC
Kalifer Deil => #Tom, Chris, Jot
Karl Freitag => Greg, #Tom
Marianne G Petrino => #*C, Chris, Karl
Justin Sewall => Karl, Chris, GC; #*C
Jot Russell => Karl; #*C
Greg Krumrey => #Tom

Winner:
The Singing by C. Lloyd Preville


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