Fiction Fragment Friday
This weeks story was a lot of fun to right. I was in the middle of writing a story to submit to a contest and needed to put that on pause to write this. Like many stories the first sentence came into my mind and I crafted the entire story from that one line. I have always enjoyed alternate history stories and the concept of many different timelines. It is a story trope I have wanted to write to for a while, but never really had that inspiration until today.
This story let me think out an alternate history that is only hinted at in the actual words. I feel like I could revisit this world and tell a much more long form tale in it. Maybe I will someday, but for now enjoy this week’s Fiction Fragment Friday.
The first step in defeating an enemy is to know that enemy. That is the philosophy that keeps me employed. I am the leader of an inter-dimensional expeditionary force. On my world of Alexandria, we discovered the ability to cross the dimensional barrier into alternate realities over fifty years ago. The second world to be added to the Alexandrian empire fell to us ten years later. As of my current assignment it spans fifteen realities.
My missions tend to be extremely difficult. We do send over a probe first to ensure the air is breathable and there is no excess radiation. Outside of those basic safety measures when I travel to a new world I am going in without any form of intelligence. I don’t know what technology level the planet will be at, what the fashion is like, or what predators might be waiting for me. Those are all important details left to me to discover before the rest of my team arrives. I need to be able to blend into any society even if I don’t know the language. There are not many who would be capable of my advanced reconnaissance.
As I step through the portal into my latest mission I immediately start taking in my surroundings. I had photographs from the probe, but they never quite tell the whole story of the incursion point. The pictures this time for example did not tell me that the ground was a soft mud, and my boots would sink in three inches on arrival. With very heavy and difficult steps I make my way to more solid ground closer to the trees. At first, I thought I was in a forest, but there is a paved path and I can see skyscrapers through the trees.
I pull out my recorder to start taking initial observations. “This world is at a highly industrial level of development. Incursion point appears to be a park in the center of a large city. Steel, concrete, and glass construction indicates a minimum technology level approaching our own.” I hit the send button and tuck the recorder back into my pocket. Upon receiving the signal, the gateway closes. I am on my own for two weeks before I need to report in again.
As I walk into the city itself, I start gathering information as quickly as I can. The signs tell me they speak English, the advertisements tell me my clothes won’t stand out too much. A variety of racial features on the models also puts me at ease for blending in. I have part of my report already written in my head. The recommendation will not be immediate conquering of this world. This world will require further infiltration to destabilize the society and weaken defenses.
In my reports I classify worlds into four categories. Category one is toxic where the environment is more trouble than it would be worth. Category two is viable. Planets in that category are either uninhabited or no further developed than the beginning of industrialization. They may put up a fight by sheer numbers but cannot stand before our technology. Category three is fully developed. This is only the third world I have cataloged that seems to fall into this category. For these worlds we will study the politics extensively to see how we can pit nations against each other. Any planet that is not unified like Alexandria is susceptible to this type of manipulation. These planets frequently have gone down different paths of scientific exploration so prior to moving on them we also want to harvest as many technological advancements as we can. The fourth category is one I have yet to experience. That category is threat, and it is reserved for any world more advanced than my own.
Even though a fully developed world looks more like my own it is the hardest to blend in to. The more developed a world is the harder it is to get by without local currency. I need somewhere to stay and access to the local television programs as my next step. I run through the options in my head. I could try to break into a motel room, but I have no way of knowing if anyone would be inside or not. I could mug someone for money, but I don’t know what the money here looks like or if their motel’s require identification. My safest option is to follow someone home and hope that they live alone.
I pick out my victim and follow them through the streets. He is a small man in a suit carrying a paper bag and he crosses the road to avoid a homeless man. This tells me a lot about the man, but I don’t know how much is accurate because this culture will not match my own. Thankfully he does not go to a parking garage. He goes into a motel. This is not ideal because there are likely camera’s throughout, but it means he is most likely traveling for work and will be alone. I have to stop myself again and remind myself that my assumptions are biased. I do not have another option though, so I follow him anyway slipping into the elevator just before the doors close.
I ride up the elevator with the man in silence. I know English, but I do not know what my accent will sound like to him. I also don’t know the nuances of the language in this alternate reality. Until I get that from popular media it is best, I speak as little as possible. We arrive at his floor, and I realize this is the most difficult part. I need to get off on the same floor and stay close but not cause him to panic. I prepare to stop and tie my shoe as a stalling technique, but it is not needed. The man briskly walks from the elevator to the first door on the right. I only have moments before he will be inside his room.
I pull my gun from my boot holster and fire a stun bolt at him. It is an invisible beam of energy so the only thing I need to hide from the hall camera’s is the gun itself. As he starts to slump down, I rush to his side and catch him. This is a role I have slipped into many times before. The helpful friend concerned that his buddy might have had too much to drink. I drape his arm around me and slip into the room with him closing the door behind us. I have just enough zip ties and tape hidden on me to restrain him and cover his mouth. This man might prove useful if I can convince him to talk.
I open the paper bag and find that he had leftovers. I smile with my luck and dig in because I’m already starting to get hungry. The trip takes a lot out of you both mentally and physically. Next, I lay down on the bed and turn on the TV. I will learn as much as I can about these people from their entertainment. I must be careful though that I don’t get fooled by science fiction. News, sitcoms, and educational programs will be the most important. As I flip through channels, I find one that is more than I could have possibly hoped for. I turn the TV to the History channel. This is the perfect start to find out how our worlds are different and possibly when they diverged. Looks like the next show getting ready to start is called Ancient Aliens.