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Toran Station

Fiction Fragment Friday

I hope all my readers in the United States had a good Thanksgiving and are staying safe out there today. I had a few ideas for a story to do today. Most of them revolved around nostalgia or being an inspiration for others. I’m sure that part of the influence for this story comes from a project I’m working on with a few others as well as a love of Nathan Lowell books. Also a recent novel by Mur Lafferty was set on a space station. All of these influences and that feeling of memories came together to form a story that really should be a snippet of something much longer.

Part of me thinks that this story needs to be developed into if not a novel at least a novella. As I sit here multiple potential scenes run through my head. I have a strong feeling that like my Mars mission stories this will not be the last time I visit this setting.


     “Welcome to Toran Station the Gateway to the Galactic Frontier.”  I could barely contain my excitement hearing the announcement come over the speakers.  This was the station I had visited with my father when I was ten.  Returning here felt like recapturing a bit of my childhood that had long been lost.  I might have been traveling for business, but I felt like it was a dream vacation.

     I headed to my locker in the sleeping compartment.  First class had their own cabins, but my company was not willing ot foot the bill for that level of extravagance.  Instead, I shared a room with three other passengers.  The beds were bunks in the wall, but they had partitions you could pull down to gain a bit of privacy.  Space is a premium on tiny transports, and they needed to utilize as much as they could to make a profit.  That also meant very strict rules for what luggage I could carry with me.  I had one bag in my locker, and I just hoped my other really was in cargo.  It would not be the first time my luggage had been lost in transit.

     I stepped through the airlock and took a deep breath of station air.  I almost choked on it.  The air was musty with a strong metal and grease tint to it.  That had not at all been what I was expecting.  I remembered on my first trip the air being the cleanest I had ever breathed.  This was worse than the air on the tiny transport that had brought me here.  Finally, I managed to compose myself and take in the sights of the hall.

     On my first trip to Toran Station it had just begun operation.  All the news reports talked about the Gateway to the Galactic Frontier and how it would open up a new era of exploration and colonization.  The station had all the newest technologies build right into the foundations.  Everything was awe inspiring no matter where you looked because it was all new and full of promise.

     The station that met my eyes did not live up to my memories.  The airlock opened to a hallway that had two lights completely out and a third flickering.  The flickering light made shadows dance.  There were grease stains on the floors and a panel missing from one of the walls.  I could see a maintenance worker at the end of the hall with a mop.  His cleaning efforts could not compare with the robotic cleaning drones that constantly cycled the halls on my first trip. 

     I followed the signs to baggage claims.  Thankfully the walls were labeled very clearly because they all looked identical.  It would have felt a bit like being in a maze if each corridor didn’t seem to have its own odor.  Grease gave way to burnt electronics only to finally give way to what I was pretty sure was urine.  I was grateful that the baggage claim room was extremely clean compared to what I had just walked through.  There was only one stain on that I could not identify and most of the lights functioned. 

     My bag was fairly easy to find as we were the only ship that was arriving that day.  Remembering just how busy the station had been I couldn’t understand why that would be when I booked passage.  Now that I was seeing its current state it was much easier to understand.  I decided it would be best to take my luggage and just be grateful it had not gotten lost in transit.   All that was left was to decide if I should check in with work or the room I had reserved first.

     The unwieldy nature of my baggage helped make my decision.  I stepped up to an information kiosk to find the path to the room work had rented for me.  Of course, the first kiosk was sitting on an error screen, but the second one was responsive.  It only took a few moments to get the information I needed and determine that I would have to walk halfway across the station to get where I needed to go. 

     My path took me through one of the market courtyards.  It was a large three-story corridor with shops lining both sides and a bank of elevators between the floors.  This was by far the busiest place I had seen so far on the station.  It looked like about a fourth of the shop fronts were available for rent, but the ones that were open had multiple customers.  The market of my memories was so crowded that dad made me hold his hand to avoid getting separated This market was not crowded, but it was the cleanest room I had seen so far.  The lights and kiosks all seemed to be functional as well.

     My memories fought with the reality.  I smelled fresh baked bread, and it brought me back to having lunch with my dad at a deli on the third floor.  The music coming from the speakers reminded me of the live performances on the balcony of the second flood.  It was far from the courtyard of my memories, but there was just enough for me to see what it looked like in it’s prime.  I was so lost in my memories that I didn’t see the woman in front of me had stopped until I bumped into her.  We both tumbled to the decking with me dropping my bag and her dropping the tablet she had been taking pictures with.

     “I’m so sorry,”  I said scrambling back to my feet not even trying to grab my bads.  I held my hand out to try and help her up.  “I really should watch where I’m going better.”

     She took my hand and let me pull her to her feet.  “First time on station?”  She was smiling at me and I wondered why she wasn’t more annoyed.  She was dressed simply wearing a shirt without any logos on it.  I wondered if she was local or perhaps on a work trip as well.

     “Actually no.  I was here when I was a kid.  Probably twenty-five years ago.”

     “Not living up to your memories, is it?”

     I was taken back by her observation.  “How can you tell?”

     She held out her hand for me to shake.  “Janice Wetherford.  Being observant is kind of my job, and that look on your face says volumes.”

     Her grip was firm, but not testing.  “Yeah it probably does.  I’m James by the way.  I’m here from Harrison Accounting to do an audit of the stations books.  Seems that some numbers aren’t adding up and I jumped at the chance to come see the place again.”

     I could see her eyes light up and she immediately started typing out something on her tablet.  “Well James, I’m sending you my contact information.  Why don’t you settle in and then I can treat you to lunch.”  It was then that I finally registered that she told me she was a reporter.  I had just dropped the seeds of a potential financial scandal for the station in her lap.  My boss was not going to be happy at all.

     “Why do I think having lunch with you could put my job in danger?”

                “Trust me.  A good reporter protects her sources.”  She turned to walk towards the elevator but stopped and looked back over her shoulder at me.  “Hard to get a second story if they don’t.”  I just shook my head at her and moved on towards my room.  I had work to do and probably a lot more disappointment to experience before my trip was done.   

The Sword

Fiction Fragment Friday

This weeks Fiction Fragment Friday is another one that was inspired by a writing prompt picture on the Gaming With Gage and Friends discord server. You can see the picture here that I wrote this story from. Is it one of my best written stories? Probably not. I do think it was fun though and I find that with these prompts I’m writing a lot more fantasy than I would otherwise. As a Science Fiction writer I don’t often stray into the fantasy realm unless it is a bit of urban fantasy. These prompts help to take me out of my comfort zone a bit and have me try something new. As always I hope you enjoy this story half as much as I enjoyed writing it.


“So brave adventurer someone has finally come for the sword.  That must mean the necromancer has returned and his armies are marching across the land.  What makes you think that you are worthy to wield such a powerful magical artifact?”

“Uhm what?”  Ok I admit that was not exactly my most brilliant response to a question.  I was riding to the castle with an urgent message for the king but had stopped at Henderson’s Pond to water my horse.  Swiftwind was nervous though and would not approach the water for some reason.  I decided to just get a drink myself and move on.  As I looked deep into the water a bright light rose to the surface. 

The surface of the lake was broken by long red hair attached to a purple face.  She was beautiful in her own way despite glowing yellow eyes that had no pupils.  Claw tipped fingers that wrapped around a brightly glowing sword.  The rest of her body was hidden beneath the water making me wonder how human it might or might not be.  When she spoke, her voice had a power in it.  I was compelled to listen and had to fight the impulse to move closer.  

“I said, what makes you think that you are worthy to wield the Sword of Artax the Crusader?  I do not care to repeat myself.  Pray you do not make me do it a third time.  If you do I may need to remove the tongue from your mouth.  Just to ensure that it is not broken.”  Despite the threat in her voice, I still felt compelled to approach her.  I have very little exposure to magic, but even I know when my desires are not actually my own.  

“I beg thee pardon my stumbling over my words.  Your beauty simply has taken my breath away.”  I figured flattery might be a good idea in this situation.  “You are indeed correct that the necromancer has returned to the world, but I am no champion. I am a simple messenger taking word to the king of his rise.  I know nothing of this sword and simply stopped to refresh my horse before a final push through the countryside.”  I tried to read her facial expressions, but they were foreign to me.  I decided to play it safe.  “I’m truly sorry to have wasted your time. I’m sure you are an extremely busy being.  This is all just a misunderstanding.”

“Tis no misunderstanding.  I am not summoned by mere coincidence.  If you indeed have not seeked me out then the sword has chosen you.  Even I do not question its wisdom in such matters.”  She held the sword up out of the water laying across her palms.  “Your destiny begins now.”

Taking all the willpower I could muster I stepped back away from her.  “I don’t even know how to use a sword.”  That was the truth.  I don’t have the muscle or the training to properly wield a sword.  The last time I tried to hold one I ended up pulling a muscle in my shoulder and was in pain for weeks.  It was not impressive.

Shadows closed over the pond, wind whipped her hair around, and the temperature dropped by at least twenty degrees in an instant.  I tried to look away as she rose to the surface but found myself cowering with very little control of my own body.  She strode across the water as if it were solid ground holding the sword forward.  “This is not a choice mortal.  You will take the sword and you will fulfill your destiny.”  She shoved the sword forward into my arms and I fell backwards onto the ground at the force.  

I watched as she turned and walked back into the water.  Her long red hair covering her back and providing a level of modesty I was grateful for in that moment.  As her head vanished under the surface of the water the sword in my arms stopped glowing.  It now just looked like any other ornate weapon that I had no idea what to do with.  The shadows and chill that had shook me to my very core also seemed to follow her.  

I grasped the sword by its hilt and was once again blinded by light.  The weapon was far lighter than I had imagined it to be, but it still took both hands just to lift it.  I could not imagine swinging without losing my balance and tumbling to the ground.  Even with ancient knowledge and incredible power someone had made a mistake.  I was the last person who should be holding a weapon like this.  There was still a message to deliver, and time was like every other luxury in life.  Something I didn’t have.

Looking at my horse I realized I had another problem.  I didn’t have a scabbard for the sword.  To make matters worse I didn’t have anything to wrap it in or a way to secure it to my saddle.  You hear all the bards’ telling stories of brave heroes finding powerful weapons, but no one ever talks about how they get those items back home.  Everyone always has packs of rope or magic bags.  I had a horse and a pouch of half-eaten jerky that lacked even the mildest hint of flavor.  I was going to have to balance the sword on my lap with one hand and try to guide my horse with the other.  Now I’m a pretty good rider, but there was no way I could make decent time like that.  

By the time I reached the castle with my message the army of the undead was already reaching the walls.  I sat on the hill staring out at the battlefield.  My message was pointless now as I was pretty sure by the massive battle that the king already knew the necromancer had returned.  It looked like some of the army made it into the gates before the defenses could be raised.  The smoke coming from within and the fallen guards rising to rejoin the fight told me it would only be a matter of time before the castle fell.  Then things got worse.

At the back of the advancing army of undead the Necromancer sat on his large flaming skeleton horse.  Part of me had to admit that he looked pretty cool in his black spiked armor.  He looked like a real warrior as his eyes turned from the battlefield to stare directly at me.  The sword was glowing on my lap making it impossible to miss me for miles around.  With a yell in a language I couldn’t comprehend, the necromancer gave his troops new orders.  Though I didn’t know the words their actions told me that I was the new target.  I wanted to run but the sword urged me forward.  

Waves of the undead soon overwhelmed me.  I was pulled from my horse to the ground.  I knew I should be swinging the sword, but all I could do was hold it close, keeping them from taking it as they scratched and bit at my flesh.  The pain was overwhelming, but the sword did not stop glowing.  I heard it in my head tell me to stand.  

This was when the king made his move.  From the front gates of the castle King Legandor rode point leading his best knights into the fight.  They used my distraction to strike directly at the necromancer with the castle guards taking up a defensive point to hold the hordes off.  Seeing their master in danger the undead left me lying in a pool of my own blood and shredded clothes still grasping the brightly glowing sword.  The pain was so severe that I could not even crawl.  

As the battle raged on, one of the King’s knights approached me.  I could hear his armor clanking as he dismounted and bent down next to me, but there was too much blood in my eyes to actually see who it was.  “You yet live,” he said in a rather hurtful surprised tone.  “It was a brave thing you did, providing the distraction with your glowing sword.”  

This was when I felt the sword pull away from me.  The knight was not trying to take it, but the sword itself was trying to go to him.  I heard it say in my mind, “you have fulfilled your role.  Now it is time for a hero to wield me.”  I couldn’t speak because I was too busy choking on my own blood.  That was when I passed out.  I would hear later that the knight personally beheaded the necromancer and ended his threat.  As for me it would be a month before I could stand on my own again.  I would never be able to ride again without intense pain.  

I’m sure my part in the battle will never be sung by bards or painted by artists.  The land has a new legend with his powerful glowing sword.  I should just take satisfaction in knowing that in my own way I played a part.  It is hard to do that when it hurts to breathe though.  No, I need to get my satisfaction elsewhere and that is why I am working so hard on my healing.  I will recover and when I do, I’m going back into those woods.  I will get my satisfaction even if it means my death.  See as soon as I can I’m going to find that pond with the magical sword distributing watery tart and I’m going to take a great big dump in it.  Let’s see how she likes my gift.             

Alarm

Fiction Fragment Friday

This week’s story was inspired by a Music League I am in on the Gaming With Gage & Friends Discord. The theme was Alarm Clock Songs.


     My alarm woke me with the most obnoxious beeping sound I could have possibly set for it.  I’m the type of person that has to set multiple alarms for myself five minutes apart to make sure I actually wake up in the morning.  That morning I flung the alarm across the room where it smashed into the wall breaking into multiple pieces.  That was when I remembered that I use my phone as an alarm.  It was supposed to be an easy way to ensure I wake up in the mornings.  Instead, it was becoming a very expensive decision. 

     I crawled out of bed and stumbled my way into the bathroom.  In case you can’t tell I am not exactly a morning person.  When I wake up it takes a while before my brain can catch up with my body.  I don’t know why exactly because my body is pretty sluggish itself for a while.  Half the time I kick something or hit my shoulder on a door frame.  You don’t even want to know what happens if I actually have to talk to someone.  This is morning for me.  A haze of moments that I don’t remember later. 

     You might think that these are minor inconveniences, but you would be wrong.  When you are the most powerful being on the planet and you stub your toe on a bookshelf it does not hurt.  The bookshelf collapses from the impact.  When you bang your shoulder on a door frame the frame shatters.  I am not a rich man nor am I particularly skilled at home repair.  In fact, I am particularly bad at handyman style work.  I just don’t have the mindset for it and every time I try the final result looks pretty poor. 

     Every repair means a new search.  I can’t pick one repair guy that I like and rely on.  They would want to know why they were fixing my door frame for the fourth time in a month.  If I want to keep my secret identity, I have to spread the repair work around.  At this point I think I have used every handyman in a fifty-mile radius at least once.  I will say you meet some very interesting people that way.  For example, one guy whistles, “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life,” while he works.  No matter how long the job takes.   With his head bobbing back and forth the whole time.  I would have kicked him out, but he was actually one of the better craftsmen I have had had in the house.  Sometimes you just have to make sacrifices.

     I looked back and forth between the shattered remains of my phone and the dent in my drywall.  It just had to hit a stud.  If the phone would have hit pure drywall it would have gone through and probably survived.  It survived shattering the ceramic vase I had flowers in yesterday.  Even the water didn’t cause any issues once it dried out.  Phones of course are another issue.  If I don’t destroy them in the morning, there is a good chance they will get hit during a fight and destroyed that way.  I’m waiting for the phone company to notice how often my phone model changes as I swap sim cards.  I try to stick with the same model, but again I’m not rich.  I’m also not a tech guy so I don’t know if they can tell a difference even if it is the same model. 

     All this is to say I hate mornings and being a powerful super being is incredibly difficult sometimes.  I sometimes wonder what my lifestyle would be like if I didn’t have to put so much of my money towards fixing things.  I might actually have a savings then or at least not have crippling credit card debt.  I find most of my teammates are either independently wealthy or struggle like I do.  There are not a lot of middle-class superheroes.  Hard to keep a stable career when you might need to disappear at a moment’s notice.  The propensity of work from home jobs the past few years have really helped the more technical minded of my peers.  That is not me though. 

     After a few minutes of wallowing in self-pity I remember what I was doing and head to the bathroom.  After completely my morning routine I always feel much most awake.  I tend to want to punch someone early in the morning.  It helps me feel better about the rest of the day.  Rescuing people is far more satisfying, but also tends to be more complicated work.  I try to save that for after lunch when I can really focus.  As I perch on my windowsill ready to leap into the sky I can’t help but wonder.  Am I the worst superhero ever?  If I’m not is it only because of how powerful I am?

     These are dangerous thoughts.  With my physiology most medications don’t work on me.  This includes the medications that my doctor prescribed for anxiety and depression.  I might be able to work through things in therapy, but how much can you work through when you can’t talk to your therapist about half of your life.  Having a secret identity makes life so much more difficult, but I’ve known heroes who didn’t.  They all ended up either sued or unable to have any semblance of a normal life.

                As I take to the sky looking for someone to punch, I am reminded of the good aspects of my powers.  How freeing it is to fly through the air.  The look of gratitude on someone’s face when you save their life.  These are things that keep me going.  Sure my powers complicate my life, but I am one of the most free people on the face of the planet in other ways.  For now, that is a trade-off I am willing to make. 

Fantasy

Fiction Fragment Friday

I recently installed a note app on my phone and use it to record random writing thoughts I have. So far these have all been the first sentences of stories. That is how this week’s story came about. I woke up in the middle of the night with the line in my head and recorded it. Then the next morning I wrote the story from the line. This is working fairly well for me as a process for flash fiction.


                I hate fantasy, and I especially hate magic.  Science and crafting make sense.  You follow a process, and it just works.  With magic though everything has to be just right.  You need the right phase of the moon, quality reagents, and the mystical all-powerful beings that fuel it have to be the mood to do so.  There is a base 10% failure rate on all ritual spells, but I’m convinced I have some sort of debuff that raises that failure rate.  I could have been flying a spaceship through the galaxy for my first deep dive immersion virtual reality game, but no I had to play with my friends, and they all wanted a fantasy game.  I really need friends with better taste.   

                The world feels so real with every sense being fed directly into my brain.  For example, my eyes are watering from the smoke filling them.  I’m having a massive coughing fit from the horrid taste and smell of burnt spider eyes that were supposed to be my potion of remote seeing.  I can hear the panicked sound of my NPC assistant trying to put out the fire I started.  Finally, I can feel the disgusting sludge that boiled over as it rolls across my feet. 

                A message pops up on my heads-up display informing me that my spell has failed.  “Thanks how would I ever have known if not for your endless stream of annoying pop-ups.  Dismiss,” I say with as much distain as I can infuse into my voice.   

                “Yes master, thank you.”  My assistant says as he quits trying to help and runs out the door. 

                “Not you, the system.  Get back here and clean this up.”  He is already gone though.  With the word dismiss he popped out of existence waiting for me to recall him.  My cooldown timer though needs another hour before I can do that.  Once again, I am alone in my alchemy lab.  How in a game that I picked up to play with my friends do I end up solo so often?  That’s right I picked a stupid crafting class and can’t manage to stay alive if I go adventuring with them.  This wouldn’t be an issue if we were all crew on the same spaceship together. 

                The system censors my words as I try to release a string of profanities at my situation.  What does “ducking shirt” mean anyway?  Nothing that’s what it means because it is not what I’m trying to say.  In fact not once since logging onto this game have, I ever meant to say duck, shirt, fork, carp, or dandelion pedals.  I do have to admit that last one was a pretty creative word replacement.  I would punch a wall to get my frustration out, but the walls of my hut are stone, and the game feeds pain back to your brain.  Sure, it is muted, but it is still there.  What kind of sadistic brick would program something like that?

                Wait did I just think the word brick?  Oh no this is gone too far.  Censoring my words is bad enough but I will not have a dog dome overzealous developer censoring my thoughts.  Dog dome?  Fork, it did it again.  I am so angry I grab my staff; it is totally not just a giant stirring stick, and storm out of my hut.  I need to kill something, and it doesn’t take long for an NPC to run up to me offering a quest.

                “Brave adventurer I am in dire need of your assistance.  We have a rat infestation in our supplies.  I need you to kill 35 rats and bring me their tails as proof.”

                “Seriously another freaking rat hunting quest?  When will I advance up to fighting absolutely anything else?  Also why do you need the tails?”  The NPC starts to reply, but I cut him off.  “No, don’t answer that.  If you answer it, I have a feeling I will never touch another food item you sell me.”  I storm off to the supply hut to hunt even more rats.  I never want to see another rat again.

                It takes me a full hour to hunt 35 rats.  The dome little things are so fast that they dodge most of my hits.  Then to make it worse only one in every three seems to drop a tail.  How does that even make sense? They all have the same appearance complete with tails, but no only some of them drop those tails.  I swear if I ever meet one of these developers, I’m going to punch them right in their smug face.  How do I know they are smug?  Trust me no one could code this kind of bold shirt without being smug.

                I shove my hand out with a brown sack in it.  “Here, here are your 35 ducking rat tails.”

                 “I am in your debt adventurer.  Here is your reward.  Five XP and ten mystery meat on a stick.”

                “Oh no, keep your meat.  I’m pretty sure I know what’s in it.”

                “Brave adventurer I am in dire need of your assistance.  We have a rat infestation in our supplies.  I need you to kill 40 rats and bring me their tails as proof.”

                “No, quest declined.”  I stomp off back to my hut where I am reminded that there is a very large mess to clean up.  Thankfully I also can resummon my assistant, so I do so immediately.

                  “Hello Master.  How may I assist you today?”

                “Clean this mess up.”  With the order given I open the menu and choose logoff.  Have I mentioned that I really hate fantasy?

The Project

Fiction Fragment Friday

This week’s story takes inspiration from a book I’m currently reading called “The Dark Forest” by Cixin Liu. In it hibernation is used to prolong the life of individuals planning for a distant alien invasion. This made me think about how that type of planning could be used in other stories. I also had the first two lines in mind and they shaped where the story went. As usual I started writing with a very basic concept or question and a story developed from it that I would not have anticipated when I started.

Like many stories I post here I have a much bigger version of the tale in my head than what makes it in. The process for stasis and revival for example is thought out, but doesn’t really fit into the story itself. You only get glimpses of it. After removal from stasis the patient is put into a medical coma while being brought back into normal functionality.


     A warm sensation spread throughout my body working it’s way from the inside outward.  My thoughts felt far away so I focused on the sensation as it felt more real than my own mind at that moment.  The warming seemed to originate from a needle taped down onto the back of my right hand.  I realized that it was an IV and my mind desperate to put together the puzzle pieces decided I must be in a hospital.  Searching for confirmation I heard the familiar sound of health monitors beeping.  With my location seemingly confirmed I struggled to open my eyes.

     “Good you’re awake.”  The voice sounded entirely too cheery, and I instantly decided I hated this woman.  I could hear her shuffling about the room doing her tasks, but to my eyes it was just a blur of motion.  They could not focus yet, and the harsh light felt like a personal assault. 

     “What.”  I wanted to ask what was going on, but only the raspy first word came out.  It was all I could manage through the pain of a burning throat.  The woman I assumed was my nurse came over and leaned down over me.  She had an obnoxious smile, but there was also a look of pity that crossed her face.  I didn’t need anyone’s pity and decided then and there that I would somehow, someday, make this woman suffer unimaginable hells.  This thought gave me pause to wonder what kind of person I was.

     “Oh no dear.  Don’t try to talk yet.  I just took your feeding tube out so your throat must be mighty sore.  You just rest up for now.  That nice assistant of yours will be by this afternoon and you can try talking then.”  She patted my cheek like I was a child, picked up her tablet, and rushed out of the room.  For lack of the ability to throw anything I decided to begrudgingly take her advice and just lay there silently.

     My body was still, but my mind was a raging storm.  I took in all the sensory input I could get and indeed it did confirm I was in a medical facility of some sort.  It was not busy as I could hear no footsteps in the hallways.  No one came to check on me, but the incessant beeping of the monitoring equipment never ceased.  I felt weak and vulnerable.  These were sensations I strongly disliked.  Gradually as I lay there my mind began to focus and my memories returned to me. 

     That afternoon a gray-haired man came to my bedside.  His face looked strikingly familiar, but different.  Like he was perhaps a relative of someone I knew, but not the actual person.  I decided to let him speak first and preserve my voice until I needed it.  My throat was already feeling better, but there was no reason to strain it.

     “It is so good to see you awake again sir.”  He was smiling, but unlike the nurse his smile felt genuine.  I believed him when he said he was happy to see me, but more importantly I recognized the voice.

     “Madison is that you?”  The voice was clearly my assistant, but he looked so much older than I remembered him.  Suddenly I was struck by a terrible thought.  “Wait a minute, how long was I out?”

     He looked pained and I could tell he didn’t want to answer my question.  “Uhm, well sir there were a few slight issues with the project.”

     “HOW LONG WAS I OUT?”  It felt like I had ripped my throat open by screaming and I fell into an uncontrollable coughing fit.

     “Sir please calm down.  You need to rest.  You just woke up.”

     “How long?”  I meant for it to come out strong and demanding, but through the pain my body betrayed me.  I hated how weak I sounded asking.

     “You gave the explicit orders not to bring you out of stasis until phase one of the project was complete.  I tried to make them wake you up, but they were too afraid to counter your orders.”

     “How long?”

     “It’s been thirty years sir.”  His head tilted down and he refused to make eye contact with me.

     “Thirty years?  Phase one was supposed to be completed in ten years.”

     “Uhm, yes sir.  There were complications once you went under though.  See the governments of the world blocked our supplies, your rivals stole some of your top scientists, and well the world changed quite a bit.  I really tried my best to keep things on track, but I’m not you.  They wouldn’t listen to me.  They don’t fear me.”

     “Of course, they don’t fear you.  Fear isn’t your tool its mine.  You are an administrator.”

     “But sir all my authority comes from you.  Once you were in stasis people didn’t see me as an extension of you anymore.”  He did not look like my trusted assistant in that moment.  He looked like a tired old man who had given up hope.  I decided in that moment that he needed to be replaced, but I couldn’t do it until I had regained my strength.  I needed him dedicated until I had reliable help and could eliminate him.

                “It’s OK Madison.  We just need to remind the world who I am.  We can fix this.  Before I can plan though I need all the variables.  Tell me, what has happened in the last thirty years?”      

Interrogation

Fiction Fragment Friday

Sometimes I might struggle with coming up with an idea because something else get’s stuck in my head. I think when that happens it’s best to go back to the stories and characters that I’m the most comfortable with. This time is a slightly different perspective. Hope you enjoy.


     “You know everything was going pretty well, but life kind of sucks now.  My best friend had to leave town so she could hide from a super powered gang boss.  The scientist that made all my cool stuff got a job in New York.  My girlfriend left me days before I got superpowers, and my first ever high paying job turned out to be working for a super-villain.  Makes a guy think he might just have bad luck.”

     “Please I’m begging you just arrest me already.”  The mugger was hanging upside down over the edge of a roof with Ricochet holding him by is left ankle.  He had lost track of how long he had been there having to listen to this supposed superhero rambling on and on.   “I’ll confess just please stop talking.”

     “Well, that’s kind of rude.”  Ricochet tossed him onto the roof where he rolled until smashing into the air conditioner.  It sputtered, sparked, and then the fan stopped spinning.  “Oh, I am not paying for that.”  He leapt through the sky and landed in a crouch next to the mugger.  “Uhm if anyone asks that was your fault ok?”

     “Sure man, whatever you say.”  He hurt all over.  First the hero head tossed him around the alley, then dragged him up the fire escape backwards, and now he was pretty sure the air conditioner had cracked a rib. 

     “You know this talk was good.  I think I needed it.  Thanks for that.”

     “That mean you’re gonna let me go?”  The words came out with a grunt.  It was starting to hurt to breathe.

     Ricochet laughed.  “Oh, that’s a good one.  Wait you were serious?  No man I’m gonna drop you off with that patrol when they get out of the convenience store.  I would take you in, but they kinda banned me for too much collateral damage.  I mean really some people have no appreciation.  Jeremy over on twelfth gave me free fountain drinks for life, but this guy no. 

     Tears of pain and frustration filled the mugger’s eyes.  “Do you every shut up?”

     Ricochet tossed the man over his shoulder and sprinted across the roof.  Just before the edge he leapt into the air and spun.  As soon as his feet his the next roof he rebounded and moved onto the next.  After making a loop around the neighborhood he flung them from the roof towards the convenience store wall.  His legs compressed against and pushed off.  As the two spun over the patrol car he dropped the mugger onto the front hood.  He was happy to notice that it barely dented the car this time. 

     “Hello officers, have a great day.  Enjoy your gift, from the rambling Ricochet.”  With those parting words the hero disappeared into the night.  He didn’t go quietly though as the mugger and police officers could hear him singing something to the tune of “Gummy Bears” as he bounced away.

     Officer Mendel rushed to his car to check on the man.  His partner officer Melvin threw her coffee against the ground while cussing.  “So help me if the car doesn’t start I’m going hunt that bouncing idiot to the ends of the Earth.  Last week the blamed fool dropped one right into my windshield shattering it.  He’s worse than the actual bad guys.”

     “He just wouldn’t shut up.  He dragged me around just rambling on and on and on.”

     Mendel helped him to his feet.  “Wanna confess now or wait until we get to the precinct?”

     “What makes you think I’m gonna tell you anything?”

     “Let me tell you about the last guy that didn’t.  See as soon as we let him go Ricochet grabbed him and bounced around until they were on top of the tallest building in Reignsborough.  Then he started singing.  Said he was working on an album.  Called it ‘Bouncing Back: Songs to Punch Bad Guys To’ Apparently every song was just a theme song about him.  Said he couldn’t get it narrowed down to just twelve, so he made the guy listen to all thirty-seven.  Every time he reached a big moment in a song, he would do a pose and drop the guy.  Caught him before he hit the ground and took him back to the roof each time.  That’s not the worst part though.”  Officer Mendel paused for effect.

     “What was the worst part?”  The mugger’s voice was cracking now.

     “Well each time that happened he had to restart the song from the beginning.  Sometimes it took three tries to get through the song.”

                “Do you want my confession verbally or in writing?”    

Excerpt From Field Report S573629 On The Status Of Earth

Fiction Fragment Friday

I wish I could tell you what motivated this weeks story? I was looking for a good idea after a stressful week and this one just came to me. I am sure I have been influenced by some of the books I have recently read involving intelligent extraterrestrial life and it’s interactions with humanity. The idea of doing this story as an excerpt from a report though is something that I can’t really point at the origins to. In the end I enjoyed this story and I suppose that is the best I can hope for.


               Humans have no idea of the dangers that await them in the galaxy at large.  At their current technology level this is to be expected.  If they did that would mean that I had failed in my mission.  The people of Earth have continued to search for life in the universe by both listening and broadcasting signals.  This will be a fruitless effort so long as my technology continues to block these transmissions at the edge of their solar system.  The best way to keep humans protected from the dangers they face is to keep them hidden from those dangers. 

               The technological leaps that have occurred in the past few decades have made keeping humans hidden a very difficult task for several reasons.  They have probes that have now left their own solar system.   I need to make sure they can communicate with these probes so simply blocking all transmissions no longer works.  They also are getting more advanced with their signal detections, so I need to block actual communications while still allowing the background noise of the universe.  If I fail in any way, I could set back their scientific advancement by years while I fix it.  Blocking communications has gone from a base blanket rule to a complicated mesh of five hundred interconnected policies.

               Remote viewing no longer proves to be adequate to keep up with human developments.  We have found that much of their news and information is transferred via a computer network they refer to as the internet.  While this network does connect their entire planet their individual nation states do not share all information with each other.  We have had to setup listening posts in five major countries to ensure proper coverage.  Each of these has required resources to blend into society, physical modifications to pass as human, and the creation of fake identities.  This has caused the Earth operation to expand from a team of ten individuals to a crew of three hundred.  Each operative on the planet presents an additional risk of discovery and replacing them as they rotate out of the project further complicates matters.

               At this time there is still a considerable leap in technology needed for humans to physically expand past their own solar system.  They are reaching a point where colonization of their moon and neighboring planet is within their grasp.  Our teams suspect that this effort will generate innovations that will drive them to unexpected advancements as the initial efforts to reach their moon did.  This is an area being closely monitored to ensure that we are not caught unprepared.  The largest concern remains in their finding extraterrestrial relics within their solar system and reverse engineering them.  The humans have shown a remarkable talent at adapting discoveries without their population at large knowing the source. 

               The recovery of a crashed Razorian probe in the area known as Roswell New Mexico seventy-five Earth years ago kickstarted the computer industry and advanced the humans far faster than we could have ever anticipated.  A similar incident with their current level of technology could very well propel them outside of their solar system and prematurely into the sights of hostile species.  This program was initiated after that event and thus far has prevent a repeat, but it is getting exceedingly difficult to do so.  The Earth government shave programs actively looking for extraterrestrial crafts and despite our best efforts to shield the planet from the larger galaxy no less than seven species have knowledge of the planet and have sent their own expeditionary programs.

               We cannot directly act against any of these extraterrestrial programs without causing a potential political event that would lead to interstellar war.  As a mitigating factor we have used a focused campaign of misinformation with the humans.  Their own media and entertainment have been a much-needed resource in our efforts to convince the populace that any sighting are instead hoaxes or easily explained.  Perhaps our most effective campaign of misdirection is to present obviously false claims of alien visitation to their planet shaping early humanity.  The more these ideas are debunked by those more learned the more the populace is hesitant to accept actual evidence.  This has had the unintended consequence of creating a network of vast believers among those most at the fringes of human society.  While we are monitoring these individuals, they do not pose a significant threat as they lack the political power to influence policy.

               I cannot understate the danger to my operatives undercover with the humans.  As their technology grows their privacy and the ability to hide becomes limited.  Surveillance technology has grown even more exponentially than other technology.  This might be because of the nature of the Razorian probe, but I suspect it has more to do with the nature of humanity.  They are an inherently distrustful species and if their media is any indication our discovery would go quite poorly.  Interrogation and dissection would only be the beginning.  If they ever had any indication of our existence among them, they would dedicate more resources to hunting us than we currently can bring to bear on remaining hidden.

               At the risk of overstepping the bounds of my report I must conclude that our current mission is untenable.  This project needs to be reevaluated at the highest levels.  We either need vastly more resources or preferably a better plan on how to proceed.  We simply cannot continue to keep the humans separate from the rest of the galaxy without endangering our people and resources.  They are not advanced enough to protect themselves from invasion or conscription, but if we continue our current path, we will likely be the source of their next great technological leap.  It is only a matter of time before they discover us and once that occurs it will be too late.

  Earth will fit in nicely with the unstable galactic stage, but only if they are able to develop naturally.  Elevation based on taking technology from other species will only lead them to continue doing so.  They could very well be the greatest of future mediators or the worst of tyrants.  The people in general are capable of great things, but power corrupts them very easily.  We will continue to do our duty and stay hidden from them to the best of our abilities.  I must implore you though to address my concerns in a timely manor or we may be forced to take preemptive actions that could jeopardize the long-term success of this mission. 

Consequences

Fiction Fragment Friday

This week’s story is another one inspired by a daily writing prompt on discord. I was so pleased with the story that I wanted to share it with the larger audience. I do however feel that my writing may have gotten too predictable to those that read me regularly. I need to work on that in future weeks and once again step outside of my comfort zone.


               If any place could truly be called evil, then Hemdrake’s tower certainly fit that designation. The emerald glow reflecting off the clouds gave the sky an eerie hue for miles around.  The ground itself was cracked open with that same glow obscuring whatever lay below.  Even the air itself was thick and hard to breathe in permeated with a sheer force of unnatural energy.  Bat winged demonic entities flew patterns in the sky around the large spires.  It took more courage than most living beings possessed to approach desolate wasteland surrounding the tower.  We were not like most people though. 

               My party stood on the ridge overlooking the tower.  Making it this far meant we were braver than most, but even we felt the desire to flea faced against such raw a raw magical tempest.  It was only our overwhelming dedication to the task at hand that stayed our shaking legs and allowed us to progress instead of turning and seeking the safety of anywhere other than that accursed place.  If we tarried a bit longer than we should have I think we could be forgiven.  In the end we did move forth into the tower. 

               The demons were our first physical obstacle.  They swooped from the sky diving to attack as we approached.  Lianna’s aim was true as she struck demon after demon with arrows knocking them from the sky before they could get within reach.  There were too many though and it fell to Boril with his shield and axe to hold the line allowing the rest of us to reach the tower entrance.  The two of them fought with all their might giving Melendor the time he needed to solve the puzzle of the entryway and disenchant the energy barrier that barred our way.  It took only moments to breach the tower, but it felt like an eternity.  We could not close the doors for fear of being trapped inside so Lianna, Boril, and Melendor stayed to hold the demons at bay and ensure we had a point of egress when time to leave.

               I let Scarlet take point moving through the tower.  Her ever-keen eye managed to find all the traps barring our way and with unparalleled skill she disarmed them.  I had always been impressed by how she could spot things that shown no outward appearance that I could discern.  I suspected that there was something mystical about it but had yet to figure out a way to verify my theories.  I suppose it doesn’t really matter how a skill works and only that it does.  I have never been someone who could leave a mystery unexplored though. 

               We found the interior of the tower surprisingly easy to traverse.  Despite the many traps there were no enemies waiting to ambush us as we anticipated.  The layout was very straightforward where I had predicted we would find a nearly impenetrable labyrinth.  Even the magical energies that permeated the air were less harsh than upon our approach.  It was as if the tower itself were welcoming us into its domain.  The very thought sent a chill down my spine. 

               The apex of the tower was much as my research had described it.  There was a raised altar right in the center of the room with elaborate sigils carved into the floor around it.  Above the altar was an opening to the sky allowing the moonlight to mingle with the emerald energy glow the tower radiated.  Torches of similar green light burned in sconces lining the wall.  It was unlikely anything living had bene in the tower for over a decade, but the room was pristine.  The room lacked the dust and cobwebs so often found in abandoned buildings and no item seemed out of place. 

               I lay my beloved’s body on the altar.  It had been difficult carrying her all this way and allowing my friends to do all the fighting for me.  Vivica had been the heart of our group and it shown in the week since she had fallen.  I won’t say my companions desired her resurrection as much as I, but they were invested enough to stand by me in this quest.  It was a long shot, but any chance at all at getting her back was worth whatever risk lay before me.

               The time for tarrying was long past so I called Scarlet over to help me prepare.  I described the elaborate ritual we were about to perform to her and handed her a vial of holy water.  She began encircling the body anointing it with the water.  Never once did she doubt my words or why holy water would be needed in a place radiating so much evil energy.  That was the trust my party had in me.  If she did not trust me, she would have been guarded against the blade I slid between her ribs. 

               The ritual was not at all elaborate.  Death required a sacrifice of life to give up one it already had.  As Scarlet’s blood drained into the carved sigils, they began to glow a red light.  My beloved’s body started to levitate above the stone altar.  It moved from a horizontal alignment to vertical with her arms still hanging limp by her sides.  As Scarlet gasped her last breath Vivica’s eyes opened.  They glowed a terrifying green.  Her skin began to pale as if it had never seen the sun.  The most shocking change for me was when her vaunted bright blonde hair faded to a shocking white.  Even with the changes she was still the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. 

               She looked down at Scarlet’s corpse laying at my feet.  “Oh, darling what have you done?”  That was when the light of recognition left her eyes.  I knew that Vivica was still there locked away in her mind, but she was no longer driving her own body.  She looked at her hands like she was seeing them for the first time.  The voice that next spoke reverberated like it was many voices from the same mouth.  “You have done well and shall be rewarded for your efforts.”

               When she touched my shoulder, I felt energy flow through my entire body burning every cell as it went.  The pain was more excruciating than I had ever felt and more then my mind could comprehend.  I lost consciousness dropping to the stone floor.  In some ways I’m thankful for that.  I did not have to see the body of my beloved slaughter all my friends on her way out of the tower.  It would be years before I knew what she had done to me.  That death could no longer touch me so I would bear witness to her campaign of conquest knowing that every death is my fault.  All the while knowing that I am connected to her and as such am the only one capable of striking her down.  My beloved is still alive deep-down insider her though and as long as she is I cannot consign her soul to the oblivion destroying the demon queen would cause.                

Premonition

Fiction Fragment Friday

There is no big story this week on what inspired Fiction Fragment Friday. I often have recurring dreams, but nothing like what is in that story. My recurring dreams tend to be about having to go back to high school. Still they are frequent so I started with one line about recurring dreams and just explored where the story went.


               “I had the dream again.”  I tried to say it without any emotion.  Like it was an everyday normal occurrence that didn’t bother me in any way.  At that point is almost was an everyday occurrence.  I had the same nightmare at least twice a week with each time getting just a little bit clearer after I woke up.  When they started a month prior, I could barely remember anything of the dream.  Then I started to remember broad concepts.  By this point I couldn’t forget most of the dream with only specific details eluding me. 

               “The one where I die?”  She asked it like I could be talking about anything.  No concern in her voice for me or herself.  It was like I mentioned some trivial thing I had read in the paper.  I suppose that was my fault.  I had only told her about the dream a few times.  She had no idea how often it came or how traumatizing it was to experience. 

               “Yes, the dream where you die.  Have I told you about any other recuring dreams?”  I immediately regretted my words.  They came out too harsh.  I was tired and lashing out at her.  It was my fault she didn’t understand the weight of it. 

               “Sorry.  I didn’t realize the dream bothered you that much.  It’s just a dream.”  She came over and took my hand in hers.  “I’m right here baby and I’m not going anywhere.”  Then she moved to hug me, and I let her.  After a moment she pulled back and looked into my eyes.  “Why is this dream bothering you so much?”

               I sighed and lowered my head.  “Ok, lets sit down though.”  I led her back to the kitchen table and sat down across from her.  “I’ve never told you this because I didn’t want you to think I was crazy.”

“But you are crazy dear.  That’s part of why I love you.”  She was smiling as she said it.  She still just didn’t get it.    

I pulled my hand away and slammed it onto the table.  “It’s not funny.  I’m serious here.”

“Ok, hon I’m sorry.  I was just trying to lighten the mood.  I can see you’re really upset though.”  My outburst made her look like she had been physically struck.   

“You know my mom died when I was eight.  My brother when I was in my twenties.  I’ve lost aunts, uncles, and grandparents.”  She nodded acknowledging that she knew.  “Well, a month before each one died, I started having a dream about it.  I don’t just dream about them dying, I dream how they die.  Each time the exact way they die in my dream is how they die in real life.  I usually even have some indicator in the dream about what date it happens on.”

“Are you sure that your mind isn’t just playing tricks on you?  Dreams are crazy and it’s easy to see things in them after the fact.”

“No, it’s not that.  I thought maybe the first time.  I was just too young.  I was there when my brother died though.  I wasn’t in my dream.  I went there because I knew when and where it was going to happen.  I wanted to try and save him.  I got stuck in traffic though.  The car had already hit him a few minutes before I arrived.”

“I always wondered why you were downtown that day.”

“Yeah.  So, you see these recurring dreams aren’t just dreams.  They are glimpses of the future.” 

“So, let’s say I believe you are having prophetic dreams about my death.  Well, you are telling me about them so we can avoid it this time.  Let’s make a plan and that should help you feel better.  When and how do I die?” 

“Last night was the first time the date was clear. “I looked down at my hand under the table holding my gun.  “You died ten minutes ago.” I pulled the gun up and squeezed the trigger.  Bullet after bullet struck her knocking her from her chair onto the floor.  I stood from my chair and walked around the table to look at the body.

My wife’s body was twisting and writhing.  Something under the skin was crawling around trying to break it’s way free.  Her jaw hinged open allowing a grey oozing creature to slide onto my kitchen floor.  Without hesitating I emptied the rest of the clip into the thing.  That was when I heard the whimpering.

“What happened?  Why does it hurt so much?”  In that moment I realized that my wife had still been alive even though the creature had taken her body.  I rushed to her side the tears flowing and I blubbered apology after apology.  It was too late though.  I looked up at the clock on the wall just then remembering that it was ten minutes fast.

I awoke in my bed drenched in sweat.  It was the recurring dream again.  The details were all so fuzzy.  I clearly remembered what time my wife died in the dream.  Looking over at the nightstand I realized that it was two minutes after that time.  The image of a grey oozing creature also came clearly to my mind.  Well, this thing was going to pay.  I reached into my nightstand to grab my pistol before heading down to the kitchen to meet the thing that had replaced my wife. 

Arrival

Fiction Fragment Friday

This weeks story is another one that was inspired by a dream. In my dream I had just arrived in Hawaii to a new job. I was shocked by the size of the ships on the ocean compared to the size of ships on the Mississippi river back home. Some of the lines in this story were actually things I said during the dream. Naturally I took the idea and put a Science Fiction twist on it.


     As I step off the shuttle and onto the docks, I can’t help but wonder if I might have made the biggest mistake in my life.  Sure, I’m good at my job and I’ll pick up the work, but what do I know about living on a space station?  I’ve never lived more than fifty miles from the home I grew up in.  I am feeling completely lost staring out the window when the woman next to me speaks. 

     “They’re big, aren’t they?”

     “Huh, oh the ships.”  It takes me a moment to figure out what she is talking about.  I’ve been watching the large freighters while lost in my thoughts.  “Yeah they are.”

     “I’m from Kansas.  We never had anything larger than a transport shuttle.”

     I glance over at her and immediately notice that her complexion is as pale and freckled as my own.  “Hey we can be sunburn buddies.”  I’m cringing the moment the words come out of my mouth.  That was such an awkward and ridiculous thing to say.  I need to clarify it.  “You know because of the red hair and all.”  Ugh, why can’t I just shut up?  I’m making it worse. 

     “Uh, yeah, I guess so.  I do burn pretty badly.  Not really a problem up here though.”  She gave me a chuckle, but I know it was out of pity.  This must be a good person the way she is going out of her way to make me more comfortable instead of just calling me the idiot I am. 

     “What brings you up here?”

     “Oh, I’ve been working up here for over a year.  I just remember how scared I was when I first got here.  I felt like a fish out of water.  Sometimes I like to come down to the docks and watch the new arrivals.  It helps remind me just how far I’ve come since Kansas.”  She seems so sure of herself that I struggle to imagine her feeling as lost as I am.

     “Is it everything you thought it would be up here?”

     She lets out a laugh.  “Not even close.  I was desperate for a new start so I took the job.  The guy told me I would be matching people to right ship for them.”  She chuckles again.  “Then I get here and find out I’m a cashier selling cruise tickets to long lines.  It wasn’t exactly the glamorous new life I had hoped.”

     “Do you regret coming up here then?”

     “Not for a moment.  Well, that’s not exactly true.  Those first few months I thought about going back home every day.”

     “Why didn’t you?”

     She stares out the window for a moment before answering.  I wonder for a moment if I have said something wrong or stepped out of line.  “I guess it was because that would have felt like defeat.  I was too embarrassed to go back and have everyone know I couldn’t do it.  Then after a few months everything just seemed to click.  Now this station feels more like home than Kansas ever did.”

     “That’s a bit of a relief to hear.”

     “Oh, living up here isn’t for everyone.  For me though this is where I belong and now, I can’t imagine every living planet side again.  It just fits ya know.”

     “Not really.  I’ve never felt like I fit anywhere.  I’ve always been on the outside looking in.”  The words just come out before I really think about them.  Deep down I know they are true though.  They are thoughts that I have never given voice to before. 

     “Well, you can’t get much more outside than this.”  She motions around the dock.  “At-least not without a spacesuit unless you want to die of exposure.”

     “I think I’ll pass on that.”

     “Suit yourself, or just stay in the station.  Whatever.”

     “Wait a minute are you trying to get back at me for that stupid sunburn buddies line?”

     She holds her thumb and index finger very close.  “Little bit.  Mostly I’m just trying to distract you from the panic attack you looked like you were about to have before I came over.  You would be surprised how many people take one look out that window and completely freak out.”

     I don’t want to admit that she is right so I change the subject.  “So are you still a cashier?”

     “I’m head cashier,” she says proudly while standing up a little straighter.

     “Oh, and what exactly does a head cashier do?”

     “Well, when I’m not coordinating the schedules, it is my job to come down to the docks to meet our new recruits that have no idea that the job they accepted is not nearly as glamorous as they thought.”

     A sudden realization hits me.  “Oh no.  You don’t mean..”

                “Yep, time to go new guy.  You have orientation to do.”  Her smile is met by my frown as I think very clearly about the wording used when they recruited me for this job.             

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