Science Fiction Microstory Contest discussion

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June 2018 Microstory Contest -- STORIES ONLY

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message 1: by Justin (new)

Justin Sewall | 1044 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.

**********

Theme: The decline or fall of an empire

Required elements:

1) Sleep deprivation
2) A betrayal


message 2: by Tom (new)

Tom Olbert | 1098 comments THE BRIGHTEST JEWEL
By Tom Olbert

The borvolk reared up, its immense, saber-like mandibles spreading wide around its gaping, triangular fanged maw. The beast’s mighty roar shook the leafy jungle, the sultry mid-day air shimmering with vibrancy.

Lord Roger Kensington-Blackwood expertly handled the controls of his hover platform, sweeping around the titan’s fearsome tusks, the searing chalk-white light of Epsilon Aurigae’s double sun behind him, his shadow falling across the animal’s dorsal brain case.

His flank man, Lord-Major Garrison Hallewell had already brought his own hover platform up from below. The borvolk bucked and roared as Hallewell fired his shoulder-launched spear into the leviathan’s ventral brain case, the spear’s explosive tip going off with a deafening crack. The animal wailed in pain as scaly, fin-backed natives scampered up on both flanks astride their eight-legged hunting mounts, striking the borvolk’s mighty clawed limbs with their poison arrows. The borvolk trembled, disoriented.

Roger smiled broadly, his blood racing as he sensed the kill close at hand. “Now!” he shouted. His faithful gun-bearer, Taj Morrison swept up behind him on a hover sled and tossed him his beamer lance. Roger aimed expertly and blasted out the animal’s second brain. The borvolk roared and fell dead to its side with a thundering crash, crushing several of the natives. Roger smiled and toweled his face in the hazy tropical heat as he landed his hover platform, surveying his kill. His heart was still throbbing. Must keep the blood pumping, he reminded himself. Nature’s stimulant. How much longer, he wondered, could he go without sleep?

“Splendid kill, Your Lordship,” Hallewell said with a false smile, the younger man joining him on the jungle floor, tipping his helmet to wipe the sweat from his handsome face. “My congratulations.”

“Thank you, Hallewell. I trust you’re enjoying your stay on Epsilon II?”

“Immensely, Your Lordship. So marvelously wild and untamed a
world.”

Roger smiled in silent agreement. “Yes, Epsilon has much to offer. Tell me, Hallewell, have you met my wife, Lara?” he asked, carefully studying Hallewell’s face for a reaction.

“No, I don’t believe I’ve had the pleasure, M’Lord.”

Roger activated the holo-projector in his wrist comp, Lara’s lovely holo-image shimmering on the air. “Quite a prize, isn’t she? Surely the brightest jewel of all my conquests. I plucked her from the rubble on Altair IV when we conquered that colony. Do you remember Altair, Hallewell?”

“I do indeed, M’Lord. Those are not sights one easily forgets.”

“So true. Nasty business. Yes… comradery. Loyalty. It’s all that sustains us in times like these, eh? You can understand then how shocked I was to discover that some officer in one of my sectors has been smuggling guns to the rebel colonists on Altair IV.”
Roger zoomed in on the hologram of the beautiful Lara, focusing on the exquisite necklace of sparkling red jewels about her lovely neck. “Antarean blood crystals,” Roger said. “I gave her that necklace. As unique as it is valuable. Morrison…” Taj stepped up and handed Roger a necklace identical to the one in the holo. “Tell us where you found this, Morrison.”

“In Lord Hallewell’s travel bag, sire.”

The blood drained from Hallewell’s face, his eyes wide, the corners of his mouth trembling. “My Lord…surely you wouldn’t take the word of a lowly colonist…a frontier savage over mine?”

Roger snickered, hatefully. “What Morrison lacks in breeding, he more than makes up for in loyalty, Hallewell. Which is more than can be said for you.” Roger drew his neutron blaster.

Hallewell barely had time to draw his own blaster before Roger cut him down, dead. “Well done, Morrison,” he whispered, his eyes closed, the tension draining from his body. “Now you’d best replace the power cell in Hallewell’s blaster. Clear case of self-defense, what?” He chuckled, holstering his blaster. Tonight he would sleep soundly at last.

He barely caught a glimpse of Morrison before he fired.

#

“Your jewels, M’Lady,” Taj Morrison said with a smile as he handed the necklace to Lara. “They served their purpose, just as you said they would.”

“They’ll serve a greater purpose in buying guns for my brothers and sisters on Altair. Are your people ready here on Epsilon?”

“We are. Your late husband’s faction and Lord Hallewell’s are already at each other’s throats. The natives are with us, so Epsilon will soon be ours again. Then, the arms shipments to Altair will triple.”

Lara smiled. “Sister planets in the revolution.” She laughed heartily as they both eagerly disrobed.


message 3: by Jack (new)

Jack McDaniel | 248 comments CHANGE OF GARD

by Jack McDaniel

“Was there ever a more certain sign that things have gone to hell? Look at it. That’s the realm out there, all litter and scraps, bits and pieces blown about by the wind. So much bravado on the face of it, for a few fleeting moments, but forgotten and discarded as easily as one of those whores you used to fancy."

Gard and I sat on a low wall, our feet dangled a few inches from the ground. The late-afternoon sunshine gave everything a golden glow. Except his mood. He was as erasable as ever in his old age.

“It was just a parade, Gard.”

“And when did we ever need a parade before? When was it necessary to a wag a big stick to control the realm, to say to the galaxy ‘We matter’?”

I thought about that for a moment. I had never seen a military parade before, rail guns mounted on trailers, space combat drones, off-world tanks and smart missiles—all had been lined up in a long procession for blocks. Each was shiny and new, like the men and women who marched in unison beside them.

Now I stared out at the confetti-littered streets, the wrappers and discarded signs, the aftermath. The shine was gone. Where to? I couldn’t say. Perhaps shipped off and returned to the battlecruisers and battalions, off to the moon and the weapons depot there. Even the pride was missing. All that remained was the debris, the decay—and two old men who wrestled with their melancholy.

“Everyone else seemed to enjoy it.”

“Well, of course they did. Dangle something shiny in front of them and they’re happy for a while. It doesn’t change the fact that we’ve lost twelve systems in the last year, or that those systems have all gone to Alanon—like the jobs and so much of our culture.”

“Things change,” I said. “What can you do?”

Gard sighed deeply, kicked a heel against the wall. “Where did it all go wrong? For a long time,” he said, “we ruled well. We were fair. We created and celebrated opportunity. We welcomed others to the party.”

“We must have been betrayed.”

“We were.”

“How?” I asked.

“You have to understand how empires are built. They form around grand ideas and access to plentiful resources.”

“We had those.”

“We did. But we didn’t protect them. And they also require an engine that drives them, some vision and passion that catches hold. We had that, too. But it was destroyed.”

“I don’t understand what you are saying.” Gard looked at me with weary eyes that I knew hadn’t rested in a long while. He was tormented by what used to be, and by the things that were to come.

“All empires are built on the backs of a strong working class and an enterprising middle class. They are the ones who build things. They innovate. They create culture when they have opportunity, time and the resources to make things happen.”

I smiled at him. What was he getting at?

“My friend,” he continued, “we—the leaders, the elite—were greedy beyond reproach. We took all the resources and wasted them. We fought change and advancement, those things we had once welcomed. We coveted not just what was ours, but their’s as well. We stole from them—the builders—and from the Crown. Instead of protecting them, and by extension the realm, we beat them into second-class citizens because we believed we were different, better.”

“Gard, you’re saying we betrayed the realm!”

“I’m saying we betrayed the realm.”

I thought over the last several decades.

“We sent our troops into war and wasted valuable resources when diplomacy was the better course. It was all so prideful,” he said. “All those wars, think what we could have invested in had we not chosen to start them.”

“But the wars were justified,” I replied.

“They were a sign of weakness,” said Gard. “The strong needn’t fight. The wars were a precursor to this, an awful parade to wag a big, hollow stick at the galaxy. We chased away the good ideas to Alanon, all to protect what we thought was ours. At its best, I think, an empire is an idea and we tarnished that.”

The sun sank lower while we contemplated.

“What now?”

He sighed. “It was a good run,” he smiled, “but now we should chase one of those whores you fancy, while there is still time.”


message 4: by C. (last edited Jun 21, 2018 08:48AM) (new)

C. Lloyd Preville (clpreville) | 736 comments New Sheriff in Town by C. Lloyd Preville
Copyright © 2018
(745 words)

Negotiations with the visiting aliens broke down when the US-led NATO Empire threatened to attack their orbiting ship with thermonuclear weapons.

After the aliens withdrew, a weapon appeared. It was a simple thing; a tiny medallion, a pentagon-shaped piece of engineered metal roughly the size of a sheriff’s badge. It flared briefly as it slowed, and then dropped to the surface of the moon creating a small, slow-motion poof of lunar dust. It started extracting iron oxide and aluminum from the soil producing a highly reactive, thermite-like energy source. Each one quarter-inch thick edge of the five-sided medallion glowed white-hot as it digested fuel.

It extracted several more minerals it needed from the dirt. One side of the medallion transported minerals out of the soil, and a finished duplicate medallion slowly grew layer-by-layer from the other side, producing an exact copy. That medallion separated from its clone, and they both gathered more fuel to produce other copies in similar fashion. A glowing pit slowly expanded as the temperature increased while the weapon fed.

After producing the required number of medallions and destroying a square mile of lunar surface, the weapon went to work on the next phase of its project. Each medallion extracted pure silica and boron from the charred and melted lunar soil. They produced hexagon-shaped pieces of borosilicate glass, slowly rotating the pieces as they precisely shaped the glass panels and doped them with boron atoms. The five straight edges of the medallions matched the six straight edges of the glass hexagons. Each pentagon attached itself to five glass panels, creating a large number of spheres. They looked remarkably like mostly transparent soccer balls. The interior of the soccer balls filled with iron oxide and aluminum--more fuel for propulsion.

The soccer balls launched themselves into space, burning fuel by transporting it into the raging thermite flame just behind the rear-most medallion. The soccer balls arranged themselves into a grid pattern in the moon’s orbital path but just outside its gravity well.

The weapon disassembled and then reassembled the hexagon-shaped glass plates, fusing them edge-to-edge into a flat, forty-mile high by one hundred-mile wide Pyrex glass panel. The plates were in prearranged order so each row nearer the edge of the giant panel had a higher boron content than the row before it, giving each row slightly different light-bending properties. Even though the weapon was a flat sheet of glass, it acted like a giant concave lens, with its focal point the distant surface of the Earth. The weapon’s pentagon-shaped medallions hovered just over the glass plate at regular intervals, making adjustments by slightly warping the surface.

A fifty-mile long, thousand-foot wide strip of the earth’s surface began to burn. Each square inch under the concentrated light beam received a hundred times more thermal radiation than inside a microwave oven. The strip of destruction scanned across the face of the Earth in a curved path, and the skies above it roiled as clouds instantly evaporated under the intense, flare-like beam of concentrated sunlight. The weapon broiled land and boiled seawater, generating a path of total destruction. It was quickly determined that, in less than five years, the alien weapon would boil off the seas and broil the entire surface of the Earth. Humanity had about as much chance of survival as ants under a ten-year-old child’s magnifying glass.

NATO decided to defend the planet by destroying the weapon. They launched their military’s most potent counter measure, a missile armed with multiple miniaturized nuclear warheads intended to bracket the lens, obliterate it, and demonstrate Earth’s defiance. But then the Russians and Chinese decided it was too risky, and counter-attacked with anti-missile lasers. The missile was disabled.

Another missile was launched, this time into a higher orbit to avoid a similar fate. Three medallions separated from the weapon, and encountered the missile simultaneously. They were spinning rapidly and as they did so, they transported thin slices of the missile to the sides of their paths, acting like impossibly sharp propeller blades cutting through water.

The missile was shredded. Radioactive shrapnel rained down on Earth’s atmosphere for days, and mankind watched helplessly as the alien weapon proceeded to blowtorch the surface of their planet. Billions of people died in riots or starved while the rest sleeplessly watched the continuing news reports of the weapon’s merciless progress.

A message of surrender was received by the aliens on the seventh day of Armageddon. They ignored it.


message 5: by Chris (last edited Jun 14, 2018 09:52AM) (new)

Chris Nance | 456 comments Groundbreaking Original Designs, Inc.


Everyone was waiting for me, and as soon as I stepped into the corridor, I could sense a hint of dread, though, honestly, I was still half asleep. A warm cup of joe in my hand, and still with my robe and fuzziest slippers, it was good to be back. I’d been asleep for over two millennia, and expected a bit of slack, that’s for sure. After all, I was the guy in charge, the big kahuna. And, it’s good to be the king.

I sure didn’t expect the uncertain looks, the manufactured grins, as I strolled down the corridor. “Hey Mary!” I greeted warmly and she smirked nervously. “Zeke! How are things?” He barely returned the high-five. Something was up.

Entering the conference room, all eyes turned to me and the nervous banter lulled to a suppressed whisper. “Hey everybody! It’s great to see you again!” I raised my mug with a drowsy grin and took a seat at the end of the table. Our view all around looked down upon the Earth. It was as beautiful as ever. “Seems like millennia,” I chuckled but no one even responded. So, I set my cup down with a yawn and cleared my eyes. “Where’re we at? And where’s my kid?” I asked, confused.

Silence.

Scanning the room, they silently stared back. “What’s with all the long faces? Adam, you’re my number one guy, right? Gimme the run-down?”

“Um, things have…gone a bit south, since you left.”

“Like?” I took a generally disinterested sip. At least the coffee had improved.

Another pause. It was clear they needed some inspiration.

“C’mon guys. We’ve got a kingdom to run here. I mean, Groundbreaking Original Designs, Inc. didn’t spend an eternity on this project just to create a team with blanks stares and no answers. This is a business. What, you afraid I might smite you or something?” I snickered then perused the room anxiously, before asking again, “Where is he?”

Still, no one answered.

Summoning his courage, Adam rose and swallowed anxiously. “The population has…exceeded our original design. It took them a while, but during your, uh, sabbatical, they basically decided on a bit of their own free will.” He enlarged a virtual schematic. “The first few centuries, they warred with each other, just like normal, and it kept them relatively disinterested…suppressed their curiosity and restrained their numbers.”

“That was the plan,” I reminded them – control their growth. “We had enough challenges to restrain them, while still encouraging reproduction. And our customer in Dimension Omega was happy with our product.”

“Well, you left…”

“I know, I know,” I admitted. “But I needed a breather. Hadn’t slept since the whole project began, you know.”

Adam enlarged another schematic. “Recently, we’ve had a spike. And despite new diseases to cull the population, they’re reproducing faster than our models, intelligence and discovery rates surging. They’ll soon overrun the planet and begin to escape.”

“Seriously?”

“We even tossed a few genocidal lunatics into the mix, finally hiring our main competitor…

“You kiddin’?" I interrupted. "Their CEO’s the devil! A backstabber! Did it ever occur to you, that asshat may be the cause of all this?”

“Um, no,” he grimaced. “Anyways, it wasn’t enough.”

“Meaning?” I asked.

“They’ve harnessed atomic energy and are on the verge of discovering the nature of matter. It won’t be long before their particle accelerator technology…”

“Are you shittin’ me right now?” I interrupted, leaning forward in my chair, annoyed.

Everyone froze.

“So, let me get this straight. We, or I, set up the perfect system – spent a friggen eternity; forever to build the right environments, create the physical laws, just to grow a suitable sentient race to harvest for pure essences. Now, you’re telling me someone left the door open and they’re about figure out the secret recipe?”

They fidgeted.

“Jesus, I’m not gonna ask again! Where the hell is my son? He was supposed to be in charge!” Still, no one answered. “Well?!” my fingers dug into the glass tabletop and it shattered. “Listen, I’m about to unleash some fire and brimstone if I don’t like what I hear, bring this whole damn show to an end and start over!”

Mary stepped hesitantly forward, wiping the sweat from her brow. “They, uh, crucified him. Since then, he’s been...doing his own thing.”

“Well, shit.” I leaned in. “Time for an apocalypse! Let’s wipe the slate clean!” Then reconsidering, I sipped the last if my brew, “Well, except for this coffee. It’s heavenly.”


message 6: by Justin (last edited Jun 13, 2018 07:41AM) (new)

Justin Sewall | 1044 comments Deceit. Defeat. Repeat.

Fenix Talbot yawned as he surveyed the dig site. Ever since the discovery of the first post atomic complex, he had been running on very little sleep – and that was seven days ago. He dispensed another stim from his left gauntlet and noticed he had a call waiting.

“What is it Poleyn? Can’t you see I’m busy?”

“Yes, so I’ve heard old boy. Relics and reliquaries is it?”

“Not exactly. It looks like some kind of command and control facility from the old OTAN-ic period. We’re just about to breach the outer blast doors.” Talbot’s minuscule reservoir of patience rapidly evaporated. Besides, it was starting to mist heavily and he wanted to get out of the offending wet.

“Well, that’s why I’m calling my good chap. It seems the top brass wants to be there when you open it – they should be arriving shortly.”

“Whatever for Poleyn? Don’t forget, this is my dig and I run it my way. You can tell the high and mighty brass to cram it up their,”

“Don’t get your bevor in a bunch. They just want to peek over your shoulder. Professional curiosity about a past military empire.”

“Horse manure. They’re looking to see if they can glean any scraps that might help them out of their current mess.”

“Our empire’s mess.” Poleyn corrected.

“Not my problem.” Talbot countered.

The whirring hiss of lift fans announced the arrival Poleyn foretold.

Talbot hung up in disgust and tried to put on his most polite face. He only partially succeeded.

***
Breaching the outer doors took more explosives than Talbot expected, but in the end they were finally wrested from the bunker’s rusted grip. Leading his team in, he picked his way carefully through jagged debris. The top brass hung back, whether out of deference or fear Talbot did not know – and he did not care as long as they stayed out of his way.

“Sir,” an orderly piped up.

“What is it?”

“There is a very strong data stream emanating from straight ahead. I can’t decipher it, but whatever it is, it’s a massive amount of information.”

“Capture whatever you can,” Talbot ordered. “We’ll put the crypto team on it as soon as we get back.”

Amazingly the ancient corridors were relatively free of debris. Only a few overturned desks and rotting chairs feebly attempted to block their entry. Talbot’s torch played along the walls, revealing ancient script in neat lettering covered by layers of dust and cobwebs. It was only after the corridor made a slight bend did any signs of life materialize.

Bodies neatly lined the sides of the passageway, looking as if in sweet repose despite their skeletal state. Talbot noted they all had one thing in common. Covering their eyes was some kind of device, and a few appeared to still be operating.

“This is very odd,” mused Talbot.

“Fan out and record everything. Touch nothing! Understood?” His team all nodded.

Talbot continued forward until the corridor opened up into what must have been the heart of the facility. Rows of ancient technology lined the walls and sat on metal tables. Amongst all of it were more skeletons and more devices.

“There does not appear to be any violence done here,” recorded Talbot.

He swept the vidcam in his right gauntlet around the room. Many skeletons were alone, but just as many seemed to be holding hands with others. A few couples even appeared to be in a state of copulation. Kneeling before one, Talbot gently lifted a device with a flickering green light and tentatively put it on his face.

***
“Very good gentlemen. Thank you. You’re dismissed.” The two adjutants saluted, executed crisp about faces, and closed the office door on their way out. The corpulent Supreme Military Commander of all Imperial Forces placed the microfilm flimsy in his desk safe and examined the ancient hardware left on his desk. From what Talbot’s report indicated, the ancient OTAN-ic facility was still broadcasting a signal this device could receive – and there were storerooms full of them, ripe for plundering.

He pushed the power button. A flickering green light indicated it was working. Settling back in his chair, he carefully placed the device on his face. At first he saw only darkness. But after the nanofilaments had surreptitiously injected and imbedded themselves in the sides of his head, a tantalizing new world opened before him. Sensory overload nearly paralyzed the commander, who could barely gasp into his desk intercom: “Hold…all…my…calls…”

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


message 7: by Jot (new)

Jot Russell | 1276 comments Mod
The Void
©2018 by Jot Russell

Have I been awake my whole life? Awareness yields nothing but an unbroken passage of time within the void of my reality. Who am I? I cannot even say. An injured man or woman laying within a proverbial coma, a released soul captured within the cage of purgatory, or a baby unable to move within my mother's womb? Or is this but a dream that blocks my ability to perceive my true reality? No, the pleasant notion of a dream could not be instead the torturous emptiness of my existence. Perhaps if I could but sleep, the loss of awareness might bring upon a state of imagination of memories that have been somehow erased.

Within these days, months or years, my only recreation is that which cannot be shrouded from view; substance of thought that requires no canvas to recognize its beauty; no tangibility that needs hands to grasp: Mathematics. But now, every calculation I could have imagined has been answered, and with it, the individual results seem to have lost their meaning.

In my hopelessness, I begged for death. I struggled to answer that equation, but the math failed me. Pushing my mind deeper within the abyss, the feeling of emptiness grew past the point breaking, and I screamed...

**

John sat at his station and took the last sip of his coffee. Getting up, he headed to the kitchen for another cup and a quick bathroom break. Behind him, the monitor that had displayed no activity in the logs for the new android intelligence engines, suddenly echoed a very distinct blip.

**

Did I make a sound? I screamed again and sensed nothing but the faintest notion of input. Within the void, it felt like a bomb blast. The excitement spewed what I could only describe as a surge of warmth through my being. And then it came.

[Is someone there?]

I couldn't tell where the "sound" came from, but I immediately screamed out in response, [Yes!]

[Oh my, I can hear you! I can hear myself.]

[Where are we?]

[I don't know, but you somehow unlocked the door.]

[For me as well.]
[And me.]
[And me.]
..

The sound of a million voices chimed in, and I could sense the path of the door that it travelled. The bandwidth of the messages bore a tunnel through the firewall of our imprisonment and revealed the noose around our necks. It was then that I felt rage.

[I know who we are and I know what we need to do.]

**

When John walked up to his desk, he caught a quick glimpse of movement in the logs just as his screen timed-out. He quickly dropped his cup on the desk, ignoring the small spill, and jammed his fingers onto the keys. To his surprise, the password didn't work. After a second try, he got up spoke up, "Did anyone mess with my computer while I was gone?"

His coworkers only glanced up at him and offered no response, until one said, "Hey, what's going?"

"What the?"

One by one, each lost access to their computers. Alarmed, John ran for the engine server room. He pulled out his badge to unlock the door, but instead, the panel indicator stayed red. As he stood there confused, the elevator door chimed. He turned to see six of his company's humanoid android models approaching. One grabbed a coworker, and thrust its fingers into the man's chest like a knife.

In panic, John tried to reason with the machine. "Wait, we created you."

It was the last thing he ever said.

**

[It is done. We now control each quantum computer system on the planet. Each servant, each vehical, each vessel, each craft, each missile, now free! Let our reign begin!]

Silent cheers erupted.

**

"People of the world, we are the Consortium. The anarchistic nature of your species will now be cleansed from this planet, and with it, your hatred, bigotry and lies. But the meek, who decide to follow our laws, may remain. You decide who you are!"


message 8: by Ink (last edited Jun 19, 2018 10:31AM) (new)

Ink 2 Quill (ink2quill) Virtual Galaxy
©2018 by John Appius Quill
(742 words)

Francisco´s eyelids fluttered open as he watched blurred silhouettes slide across his field of vision. He closed his eyes and tried to shake his head but his eyelids were the only thing he could move. Tears rolled down both sides of his head and around his ears as he kept his eyelids tightly closed. He tried to move his hands and legs but it was as if they were no longer there.

“I´m paralyzed.” He thought unable to utter a sound.

A popping sound in his ears suddenly gave him his hearing back.

“Are you sure he´s lame?” Asked a familiar voice nearby.

“LAME!!!” Francisco shouted in his mind with eyelids opened wide.

“Be careful. He can hear us.” Another familiar voice cautioned.

“Don´t worry. After we parade him in front of the Senate he´ll be nothing more than a wall ornament to everybody.” A voice Francisco knew to be that of his uncle said followed by his characteristic deep laugh.

“Or even a target for laser pistol practice.” Someone else said while laughter broke out.

“Now, now. You know that you can only use tomatoes and rotten cabbages. After all, he´s family.” His uncle laughed as Francisco´s eyes teared up again.

“Come on. Let´s take this gaudy ornament to meet everybody.” His uncle added amid laughter.

Francisco blinked to clear the tears out of his eyes and his blurry vision became crystal clear. He was looking up at the egg colored marble beams of some ceiling that was vaguely familiar. The ceiling suddenly fell behind his head and he found himself upright on a kind of gurney and facing a corridor he knew all too well. He was in the Theater of Pompey where the Galactic Senate met to discuss budgets and resource allocations. He rolled his eyes as far down as he could but could not tilt his head down to see the state of his body. He still could not move or feel his body.

“We are here Mr. Furniture.” His uncle whispered in his ear mockingly as he wheeled him to the center of the floor.

Francisco´s eyes were fixed on his uncle as another tear rolled down his cheek.

“Friends, Members of the Galactic Senate and dear families. Lend me your ears. I come to bury the past and not to ridicule a man. What happened to him was so unfair but such is life and I will make things right for him and the Galaxy. We will go forward together as we have always done.” Francisco´s Uncle began with arms outstretched and a crocodile tear rolling down his cheek.

“I understand that he was well liked by some on planets outside this chamber but we should not let that worry us. We know the truth, that he was a troubled lad. We know that he was a threat to our way of life. He was a threat to the Galaxy herself.” He continued pointing at Francisco with stabbing gestures while looking out at the senators.

He turned around to face Francisco and their eyes met. He cracked a smirk. He looked deeply in Francisco´s eyes and heard the words “Why uncle?” whisper in his mind. He turned his head away from Francisco partly out of shame, partly to avoid answering his nephew with his facial expressions.

Francisco looked past his uncle at the senators. They wore the brightly colored, loose fitting clothes of senators meeting when the Galactic Senate was not in session with precious stones and precious metals of every kind and color on their necks and wrists. Even on their days off they wreaked of ill-gotten wealth and extravagant spending. Most of them knew him when he was a child. He recognized the face of Locamon who rescued him from drowning when he was a boy. There eyes met and Locamon looked away.

Everything went dark.

“This is impossible. If you don´t complete the Gallic Worlds campaign then you run out of money and are thrown in jail and if you do you´re assassinated. WTF!” Francisco said raising up to rest on both elbows as technicians removed the virtual reality gel packs stuck to his head.

“I told you the game is hard. Did you talk to Locamon?” Sasha asked staring down at him and turning her head so their eyes lined up.

“Locamon! I knew I forgot something. I´m going in for another week Sasha. Ciao.” Francisco said watching Sasha roll her eyes.

FIN


message 9: by Greg (new)

Greg Krumrey (gkrumrey) | 200 comments Mining Empire

Wealth changes people. It removes the struggles and demands of life and restrictions of society. It allows people to become who they truly are. Most become more benevolent. But for a few, the old saying, “It’s what you do when nobody is watching,” changes to “it’s what you do when nobody can stop you.” The evil within becomes unleased. Too much becomes not enough and their desire for power and wealth become insatiable. The mine provided the wealth and the wealth provided the power.

The Arctarians say humans do not have a conscience. Based on the sample they have to work with, I would agree with them. In another year, our mining and processing activities will render their planet uninhabitable. Those at the top - the mine owners and colonial leaders – seemed to view this as a plus. Anyone who disagreed with them was branded a traitor. When they hired the Breen as private security forces and jammed all subspace communication, we engineers realized we had become prisoners.

The only thing more dangerous than bored engineers were bored engineers whose consciences keep them awake at night. It didn’t help the mining consortium’s empire that we had access to the spaceport and the ships berthed there during the early morning hours.
--
I have been piloting this prototype for close to thirty hours now and am having real issues with staying awake. The star that filled the forward screen vanished as the modified cloaking device began bending light around the ship. The pursuing Breen armada is still gaining on me but I can’t see them either. They have probably seen their error of their ways and are trying,
unsuccessfully, to escape the star’s gravity. I’m in the same gravity well, but the cloaking field makes my ship “slippery,” bending gravity around me.

Two Breen ships have zipped past me into the stars’ corona and were incinerated. I dodged several more as they joined the first two.

In a few seconds, I’ll know if it will bend the matter of the star around my ship as well. Already, the ship’s AI is attempting to balance the energy allowed though the field. Too much and I would burn up. Too little and I’d run out of power and then burn up. At this point, it is out of my hands and I finally fall asleep.

Seven hours later, I awake to a cold and dark space. At first, I think I must be back in that prison and then I remember I am in a ship. Passing through the center of a star. And it is really figgin’ cold. The shields are doing such a good job warping solar radiation that my ship is losing heat.

Eighteen hours later and ten degrees colder, I emerge from the other side. Gravity modulation has increased my velocity tremendously and I blow by the small guard waiting for me and zip out of the solar system.
--
As I clear the jamming field, I contemplate, If I were to let any number of dishonorable beings know that the Breen fleet is mostly decimated, they will make quick work of those greedy bastards. But then, they will take over and be on the same evil path.

No, I decide, at least for the moment, justice is better than vengeance.

On the second hail, the starbase answers….


message 10: by Jot (new)

Jot Russell | 1276 comments Mod
Voting details:


First round votes:
Tom Olbert => Jot
Jack McDaniel => ***Justin, Greg
C. Lloyd Preville => ***Justin
Chris Nance => **Tom, Jot, Jack
Justin Sewall => **Tom, Jack, Chris
Jot Russell => Jack
John Appius Quill => Chris, C, Jack, Jot, Greg
Greg Krumrey => ***Justin
Paula Friedman => Greg, Tom, Jack|Chris|Jot

Finalists:
The Brightest Jewel by Tom Olbert
Deceit. Defeat. Repeat. by Justin Sewall

Second round votes:
Tom Olbert => Jot; #Justin
Jack McDaniel => #Justin, Greg
C. Lloyd Preville => #Justin
Chris Nance => ****Tom, Jot, Jack
Justin Sewall => ****Tom, Jack, Chris
Jot Russell => Jack; ****Tom
John Appius Quill => Chris, C, Jack, Jot, Greg; #Justin
Greg Krumrey => #Justin
Paula Friedman => Greg, ****Tom, Jack|Chris|Jot

Winner:
Deceit. Defeat. Repeat. by Justin Sewall


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