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Snow White & The 3 Pigs

Fiction Fragment Friday

This week’s story is one of those that formed when the first line popped into my head. I have no idea where the inspiration for this line came from, but a whole story developed in that one moment. I woke up in the middle of the night and sent myself a message with the whole first paragraph so I could remember it in the morning.

As I wrote it I realized I had a much larger short story on my hands than fits for a Fiction Fragment Friday so I started cutting out things that I would have spent paragraphs on. Conversations between the main character, a mirror, her hunter, and the pigs were cut. In fact as I was writing the chase scene I realized that it could have lasted the entire length of a Fiction Fragment Friday. This is a case where I think the story could use a bit more room to breath and might have been better if I had written the entire story and then edited it down for size instead of the approach I took. I take it as a lesson learned.

My alias is Snow White, and I am the realm’s greatest art thief. To the best of my knowledge, I’m the realm’s only art thief but let’s not quibble over minor little details like that.  I have been liberating great works from the rich for years with only the rare close call.  No matter the number of guards or traps setup I can abscond with my target leaving no trace of my passing.   You might wonder how I achieve such a remarkable success rate, but that is a trade secret.  Words cannot thus express my surprise at triggering the Queen’s magic security system.

“Thief on the second floor of the north wing.”  The voice came from a mirror in the hall across from the painting I was targeting.  It also came from every other mirror and reflective surface in the castle.  There was an elderly man’s face reflected in these surfaces and he did not look happy.  He gave a play-by-play report of my actions as I grabbed my objective and made a run for it.  On the plus side I had covered my face, so the descriptions of my appearance were not particularly helpful.  On the negative side the moment the mirror started talking a magic suppression field went into effect and I could no longer walk through shadows. 

I heard the howl and knew I was in serious trouble.  The Queen had loosed her werewolf hunter on me.  It would have no trouble getting my scent so the saving grace of keeping my appearance hidden wasn’t as helpful as I had hoped.  Even with my abilities losing a hunter that tracked by scent was difficult.  Without them I was about as scared as I had ever been.  That meant I was desperate, and, in my desperation, I dove through a glass window into the courtyard.  My gear kept me from getting cut, but the action was loud, and the landing was hard.  There would be no blood left behind to use against me, but I was drawing a lot of attention.

Exhaustion soon threatened to overtake me as I regained access to my magic and started pushing against my own limitations to escape.  My muscles were sore from running and my brain was pounding from magic exertion.  There was only so long I could push myself like that and my ankle had landed very poorly so every step shot pain up my leg.  I was free of the castle, but the werewolf was still behind me.  Scent cannot be outrun.  I needed just a moment to catch my breath and think of something.  That is when I saw the thatch cottage. 

The owner let out a squeal of surprise when I melted out of a shadow of his cottage.  He was a Swineman.  If you have never encountered one, they are magically evolved pigs that walk on hind legs and wear clothes.  Mostly they have been created as an underclass of farmers for the Queen.  She doesn’t really let them leave the farms that they work very often.  He was shaking petrified and considering most of the encounters he had probably had with humans I couldn’t blame him. 

“Little pig, Little pig.  Let me in.”  The harsh raspy voice of the werewolf carried through the little cottage.  My host was too petrified to move or speak. 

“Yeah, that’s not gonna happen,” I yelled back out the window.  I knew that the walls of the cottage could never hold him out, but I still needed more time. 

I expected him to give another warning.  The longer I could stall the better.  He did not bother with more words though.  I heard rough chanting and when I glanced out, I could see his clawed hands making signs.  Wind whipped around him, and a mini tornado formed heading straight for the cottage.  On instinct I grabbed the Swineman and dragged him through shadows seconds before the building was completely destroyed. 

Hoping it would take the werewolf a moment to realize he hadn’t gotten us I paused long enough to take in my surroundings.  There was a much sturdier looking cabin on the far end of the farm field.  I was still working on instinct and started heading in that direction.  The werewolf would have no problem slaughtering the Swineman for just being near me, so I dragged him along.  The werewolf realized what I was doing far faster than I had hoped and leapt through the air at us.  I was barely able to melt into a shadow before a claw sliced through the air where we had just been. 

In the wooden cabin we were greeted with another squeal of shock.  My Swineman ran to the new one and they held each other tightly.  I think they were brothers, but to be honest I have a hard time telling them apart.  I feel horrible for that, but it is the truth.  “Calm down, I’ll think of something.”  I was gasping for breath.  I finally set the painting down to free up my hands. 

“Little pigs, little pigs.  Let me in.”  The voice sent shivers up my spine.  He was enjoying this hunt and I was just putting more people in danger.  “No brave words this time?  Well then, I guess I’ll just huff and puff and blow your house down.”  The chanting started again.

I was at rock bottom as far as my magic went.  I needed rest and focus.  The cabin looked solid, so I decided to risk it and try to rest.  It was one of many mistakes I made that day.  The walls held against the first impact, but the roof collapsed in on us with the second.  The weight of the wood slammed down on me.  Pain shot through my body as a splintered beam pierced my side.  I could feel the warm blood pouring.  If I managed to get away that blood could be used against me. 

A strong clawed hand wrapped around the back of my neck and lifted me off the ground.  I dangled there with the weight of my body pulling me down and my head spinning.  My body was broken and my mind fussy.  My magic though had one final reservoir of power.  I turned intangible passing through the claw and dropping to the ground once again physical.  I grabbed a support beam turning it intangible for a moment.  With all the muscle I had left I hefted the beam through the werewolf and let go of it.   

The wood turned solid again inside the wolf causing him to let out a bone chilling howl of pain.  There was no external blood since the skin was not punctured but melded with the wood.  He reared back and started wildly grasping at the beam trying to break it.  I had expected my actions to have been fatal for him, but he was still on his feet.  This was not over. 

I quickly took in the scene around me.  The Swinemen were both down and needed help.  The painting was destroyed.  My body wasn’t fully responding telling me that bones were broken.  Out of the corner of my eye I saw a stone building.  As my consciousness faded, I melted into the shadows and came out in front of a brick fireplace.  I could still hear the howling as I passed out.                   

“Wake up, wake up.”  The panicked Swineman was shaking me, and it hurt.  The stone cottage was shaking as wind buffeted it.  The werewolf was cursing me outside, but he didn’t sound like he was having fun anymore.  I could hear pain in his words and the wind was not nearly as strong as it had been when it destroyed the wooden cabin.  “Here drink this.”  He poured a mug of something down my throat.  It stung going down and soon it felt like my entire body was being burnt from the inside out. 

“What was that?”  My voice came out strained.

“Magic user, yes?”  He held up the mug.  “This will refill magic.  Can’t help fix your body, don’t have the right ingredients.” 

I felt deep inside and found that indeed my magic reservoir had been refilled.  My headache had faded as well.  I only have limited healing magic, but I pushed it to it’s limit to try and deal with my pain.  It was just enough for me to stand again and approach the window.  Thankfully it was far too small to fit the werewolf, but I still found myself buffeted with wind and debris.  The Werewolf was bent over in pain with its palm out towards the house.   The beam had been snapped but was still sticking out of him.  I could tell that his healing ability was taxed to its limit, and his magic was fading fast as well. 

I could barely move so anything I did needed to rely more on magic than physicality.  I would only have one shot because even hurt it could move so much faster than I could.  The moment he lowered his hand and the wind stopped I made my move.  I melted out of his own shadow and grabbed him turning us intangible.  We sunk into the ground and I let go of him allowing him to become physical again.  Shadow walking while intangible is extremely dangerous, but turning physical underground is even more dangerous.   I dropped to the ground inside the stone building and once again the world faded away. 

I awoke hours later.  The werewolf was dead.  Even if it survived becoming tangible again it would not be able to breath underground.  The Swineman from the stone building had retrieved the other two and addressed their wounds.  As I looked over my body, I found that he had bandaged me as well.  I could smell something burning in the distance. 

“Worry not.  Your blood burns with the remains of my brother’s house.  You are safe for now, but you can’t stay long.  I don’t need the kind of trouble having you here will bring.”

“Thank you.”  I felt like I should say more, but words didn’t quite match my gratitude.  “If you ever need anything..”

“You owe no debt here princess.  Just don’t mention us to your stepmother.”  I reached up to my face and realized that to bandage me he had removed my coverings.  He knew who I really was.  If word got out that Snow White was Princess Caselotti it would not only be the end of me but might destroy the kingdom.  He seemed to read the concern on my face.  “Relax princess your secret is safe with us.  If I may be so bold though perhaps you could do more with your gifts than steal pretty pictures.” 

I think that was the moment I decided to organize the resistance against my stepmother.         


Fiction Fragment Friday

This week’s Fiction Fragment Friday is not just fiction.  I have been looking into solo roleplaying games and in particular the genre known as journaling rpgs.  The idea is that you have mechanics and prompts that create a situation or conditions that you then write a journal in character for.  A few weeks ago, I wrote a story called Stranded that used the format of a space explorer’s log.  As it happens there is a solo RPG out there called “Alone Among the Stars” that has the gameplay take the form of a Space Explorer’s log.  It seemed like it would be a perfect fit for the very first solo RPG that I try.  Being a journaling rpg it is essentially writing prompts.  That is where this week’s fiction comes from.

For those interested in the Mechanics I rolled a D6 and got a 4.  That meant I was going to draw 4 cards from a deck.  Each card would be the prompt for a log.  The cards were placed in a row in front of me.  Before flipping a card, I would once again roll a D6 with this one informing how I found the item.  The suit determines the type of item found while the value of the card defines where it was found. 

The final prompts generated by this method were:

Entry 1
Come upon it suddenly
Living being
Under the light of the Moon

Entry 2
Come upon it suddenly
Living being
In the desert

Entry 3
Arduous to get to
Natural phenomena
In a steep canyon

Entry 4
Come upon it suddenly
Plant or other immobile life
Floating in the air

Space Exploration Vessel EV-023 James Lovell

Mission Log AB Doradus E: Day 1

My first day on the planet was spent running scans and assessing the local environment.  By nighttime I was able to determine that the air was breathable and didn’t seem to contain pathogens or virus that could be harmful.  I decided that it was worth taking a walk around the landing site and doing some personal cataloging.  I found myself distracted by the beauty of the double moons in the sky.  They were breathtaking and I have come to realize that no matter how many planets I explore the first night under a new sky will always be a surreal experience. 

Perhaps it was my distracted state or the creature’s natural stealth that kept me from noticing movement in the nearby brush.  Before I even knew I wasn’t alone I found myself facing down a very large feline like predator.  It had some sort of natural camouflage that allowed it to blend into the flora until it leapt into the open.  A shot from my blaster shattered a large nearby rock startling the creature long enough for me to return to the ship.  I have cataloged the creature as best I could from footage provided by the onboard ship cameras.  It was a successful but harrowing first day on planet and I will be making sure I take proper precautions on future days.

Mission Log AB Doradus E: Day 4

I have been using the remote drones to map the regions around my landing site and determine locations where I need to personally investigate.  The first few days provided valuable data, but nothing of particular note for my mission logs.  This morning broke that pattern.  I was flying the drone over a desert when it was knocked from the sky by a large flying lizard like creature.  The talons did severe damage to the drone.  Thus far this mission is quickly ranking up as one of the most dangerous explorations I have performed. 

Following protocol, I could not allow any technology to be left behind on the planet, so I took a hoverbike out to recover the drone.  I don’t want to sound paranoid, but I wore a full armored environmental suit and brought both my standard blaster and a high-powered rifle.  Thankfully the recovery went smoothly with no complications.  I am still in awe of the damage this creature was able to inflict on my drone.  These drones are designed to be resilient, but the claws ripped right through the shell and damaged the internal functions. 

Mission Log AB Doradus E: Day 6

The drones yesterday identified a steep canyon that makes the Grand Canyon look like a crack.  It is easily the largest canyon I have ever cataloged and unfortunately the high magnetically charged iron content interferes with my drone control signals.  I had to personally investigate the site.  I have performed rock climbing on multiple missions, but still consider myself a novice at it.  If not for the antigrav safety harness, I very likely would not have survived my decent.  I almost decided to call off the investigation due to personal risk.  That would have been a tragedy. 

At the bottom of the canyon were awe inspiring crystal formations.  Many of these crystals were as large as small skyscrapers back home.  The depth and moisture levels required me to wear my environmental suit as all readings indicated that my lungs could not survive without it.  The increased heat at the depths also taxed the cooly systems on the suit.  If I had realized what I was going into I might have worn a volcano observation suit instead.  Even with the dangers and struggle to reach the crystal formations are a once in a lifetime experience and reminds me why I enjoy my job as much as I do.  I get to see things that no one else has ever laid eyes on.

Mission Log AB Doradus E: Day 7

Today for my final scheduled day on the planet I decided to have a picnic in a nearby clearing.  It was a short trip from the ship through a bit of forest and a few fields of tall grass.  When I came out in the clearing It didn’t look anything like what the drone footage had returned.  There were flowers just floating in the air.  I launched a drone to my site and watching through its camera sure enough the flora did not show up on the feed.  My relaxing lunch soon turned into three hours of intense testing, scanning, and sample collection. 

I am stumped.   I cannot figure out how these flowers float in midair defying gravity and rewriting everything we know about how flora grows.  None of the tests can explain why the plants do not show up on camera.  Even more confusing most standard scans do not detect anything at all.  I can see, touch, and collect samples though proving their existence.  It is a true mystery and as frustrating as it is I must admit that it is beyond my personal capabilities.  I can’t wait to see what the scientists back home make of this. 

With my seven-day mission complete I am finalizing the log with this entry.  I am utilizing my right as first explorer to name AB Doradus E.  It is a planet of wonders and dangers in equal measure.  A place to be treated with caution, but also admired.  Because of these traits I’m naming the planet Leander after Oleander a flower that is extremely beautiful, but also very poisonous. 

Destiny of the Wicked

Fiction Fragment Friday

I have always loved the world created in the Wonderful Wizard of Oz. I cannot say that I have read all the books, but I do find new versions of that world fascinating. The ways it can inspire others is truly magical. I greatly enjoyed Wicked, Dorothy Must Die, and many other ways people twist the story. This week is my attempt to do so.

I have no idea what brought this tale into my mind, but it started with the second sentence of the story. The line just popped into my head and it was so evocative I knew that I had to write about it. I immediately typed out a paragraph so I wouldn’t forget. That actual paragraph did not get used in the story, but it did inform the direction I would take.

As I started writing I realized I was framing a situation and a world. I wanted this to be a story though and not just a thought exercise. Playing to my own strengths that meant I needed to introduce dialog and that forced me to develop the stories protagonist further. I went through multiple ideas in my head for what job he would take on before settling where I did. The rest of the story kind of flowed and took me places I did not anticipate.

               There is a long forgotten saying in the Land of Oz.  If you kill a witch, you become the witch.  It was mostly lost to time as no one save the most powerful dares oppose them.  Then came Dorothy Gale from Kansas.  This girl waltzed right into Oz dropping a house on the Wicked Witch of the East and stealing her magical shoes.  Not long after she slew the Wicked Witch of the West as well.  Before leaving Oz, she convinced the Wizard to abandon the Emerald City placing Scarecrow on the thrown, Tin Woodsman takes charge of the Winkies, and The Lion is declared king of the beasts.  Over the course of just a few weeks this small girl changed the entire power dynamics of our world and then left.

               If the legends are true, then by slaying two witches she would inherit both of their powers and roles.  Since they were wicked the magic would twist her enhancing her darker emotions and desires.  This is the true danger of fighting evil.  Sometimes in the fight to defeat evil you fall pray to becoming that which you most hate.  Dorothy should be destined to become one of the most powerful and evil being in the history of Oz, but she went home to a world without magic.  What does that mean for the power and roles that she should be inheriting? 

               I was thinking over these questions in my classroom when she came into the room.  “Good morning, Dorothy.”  I greeted her with a smile masking my concern.

               “Good morning, Mr. Franklin.”  The girl always seemed so happy, but I could see a sadness behind her eyes.  Something hidden behind a smile that I might not notice if I were not doing the same myself. 

               A year ago, I gave up everything I knew to travel to Kansas.  I needed to know if this girl is the biggest danger that Oz has ever known or if the stollen power and influence was being suppressed.  I needed to get close enough to watch her and so I took a new identity and became a teacher at her school.  I’m not sure how long my identity will hold before I am discovered to be a fraud so I must work quickly to establish trust and gather as much information as I can. 

               “How was your weekend?”  Always start with a probing open question.

               The sigh that escaped her did not match the smile on her face.  “Boring.  Nothing interesting ever happens around here.”

               “Life on a farm can’t be that boring.  At least it keeps you busy.”

               “I don’t want to just be busy.  It’s the same chores every day.  Nothing ever matters.”

               I’ve heard this speech from her before.  I can’t really blame her either.  After experiencing a world as magical as Oz who could be happy in a mundane place like this.  Still this world has its own wonders.  Oz has technology, but the technology here is available to all and developing at such a fast rate.  I’m sure the banquets of the Emerald City might compare, but the food here is a vast improvement over what you can find in the average village of Oz.  Particularly meat dishes.  When all the animals can talk meat is not particularly popular among most of the cultures.  It is also far safer here, but to a girl who has known this world all her life and only glimpsed mine I can understand her wanderlust.  I must question though if the magic dormant inside her might be pulling her to return. 

               I have no way to return home unless she finds one.  That is something I can never allow.  Dorothy Gale must remain in Kansas and that means I have to as well.  It means I need to find ways to help her embrace her home.   “If you didn’t live on a farm, what would you be doing with your free time?  What do you want to be doing?”

               To give her credit she thought about the question before answering.  I can’t be sure if she was debating the answer or remembering her time in Oz.   “I don’t know, but I want adventure.  I want to see new things and meet new people.” 

               “So, it is less about wanting to do anything in particular, but more a case of the grass being greener elsewhere?  Everywhere has its own set of problems.”

               “I guess, but how do you know the perfect place for you if you don’t know what else is out there?  If you don’t go, try to find it you never know it exists.”

               I opened the drawer on my desk and pulled out a handful of travel brochures.  “New York, Chicago, San Francisco.  You can read all about the places of the world.  Learn about them and decide which ones are worth visiting.”

               “What if the place I want to visit doesn’t have a travel guide?” 

               “Then maybe it’s too dangerous to visit.  There are plenty of wonderous places in this world that do have travel guides.  Traveling isn’t going to solve your problem though.  Traveling is fun, but the best part is coming back and having a home waiting.  Having people that care about you.  You need to find ways to appreciate that while you have it.  When you grow up you don’t have to stay here, but you need to be able to make where you are home, or you will always pine for what you don’t have.” 

My own words hit me hard.  I don’t have anyone here and spend far too much of my time thinking about where I came from.  I might be here for a reason, but I don’t feel like it is a home.   For my own sanity I need to start making this my home and not think of it as just a mission.  I’m never returning to Oz so this is my home now. My purpose might be to protect Oz from Dorothy, but that Is not a life.  I need to start making friends and plan for my own future outside of her.

“Mr. Franklin are you ok?”  She was staring at me, and I realized that I had been sitting there silent and lost in my own thoughts.  If she had said anything I hadn’t heard it.

“Yes Mr. Franklin what ever are you thinking about?”  The voice came from an older white-haired man leaning against the frame of my classroom door.  Wearing a black suit and top hat to accentuate his handlebar mustache, the look reminded me of a circus ringmaster.  He had said my name with a sarcastic tone like he knew that it was not real.

Dorothy’s eyes lit up at the sight of the stranger in a way I had never seen them do.  It wasn’t the mask of a smile, but true joy.  She ran to him wrapper her arms around his waist in a hug.  She was talking so fast I could not make out what she was trying to say to him.  The man returned her hug, but his eyes never left my own.  He radiated confidence in a way few people can.

“Who might you be good sir?” I asked trying to keep the worry from my voice.  If this man knew I wasn’t who I claimed to be he could ruin everything.

“Oscar Diggs at your service.”  He tipped his hat and bowed his head unable to bow further due to the girl hanging onto him.  “Though I suspect you know me by one of my other names.  Oz the Great and Powerful.”

               “The Wizard,” I gasped. 

               “Just so.  Dorothy dear your teacher here is not who he says he is.  I know not why he has come here, but this man followed you from Oz.  I received a message from Scarecrow via flying monkey to come check on you.”

               Dorothy looked at me with a rage in her eyes I had never seen on the girl.  I stumbled over my words trying to defend myself, but she screamed at me.  “Just shut up.”  Suddenly I couldn’t speak.  My lips felt glued together, so I reached up feeling my face in panic.  My mouth was gone.  There was just smooth skin where it should be.  Somehow in this world without magic she had access to it.

               “Well now isn’t that interesting,” the wizard asked with a smug look on his face.  He looked down at the girl.  “How would you like to return to Oz and see your friends again?  My balloon is right outside.”

               “Oh, I would like that very much.” 

               “Excellent.  Grab your things and head on out.  I’ll be right along after I have a few words with your teacher.”

               “I can’t wait to see everyone again,” she said as she rushed from my classroom.  As she got further away, I could feel my mouth returning.

               “Well now, ‘Mr. Franklin’ I don’t know what your game is, but that little girl is going to redefine the meaning of the word power and I’m not about to let you or anyone else get in her way.”

               “You don’t know what you’re doing.  She has the power of both wicked witches and if she goes back it’s going to twist her into something evil.”

               He smiled at me again and pulled a revolver out of his jacket pocket.  “Perhaps, or perhaps I can guide her into what I want her to be.  Either way she’s my ticket to greatness.  Ask yourself this.  Why did I order her to kill the Wicked Witch of the West?  Was my leaving her in Oz really an accident?”   Then he shot me.  It was only in the leg and not life threatening, but it hurt worse than anything I have ever experiences.  “So, you don’t follow me.”  Then he left my classroom whistling as he walked down the hall. 

               That encounter was two weeks ago, and no one has seen Diggs or Dorothy since.  I can only assume that he did successfully return to Oz and that means I need to as well.  I must find a way, or everything will be lost.  I need to save Oz from Dorothy, but I need to save that little girl from herself as well.  Only in Kansas can she have any hope of not becoming something truly wicked.  I rev my motorcycle and ride towards the tornado.  This might kill me, but I can’t live knowing I didn’t at least try.   


Fiction Fragment Friday

I was looking through old flash fictions I had written and remembered how much I like the log entry format for them. It allows for a different kind of storytelling. In this case I wanted to see if I could work in a reason why the story was being told in that format and I believe I accomplished it.

Alvera Prime Surface Day 1

     Catastrophic system failure during entry to the planet’s atmosphere led to an emergency landing far from what had been scouted by advanced probes.  The ship still has power, but structural integrity has been lost.  It is not going to fly again let alone reach space.  I’m still assessing what can be salvaged from the ship and taking inventory of my supplies.  The emergency beacon is active though so if I hold out long enough a rescue team can find me even though I’m not sure where on the planet I am.  I just hope there is a team sent to come looking.

Alvera Prime Surface Day 2

     I have survived my first night on the surface.  The forest was filled with the sound of animals hunting each other.  None were brave enough to approach my crash site thankfully, but I fear they are curious about me.  I need to make a decision on shelter today.  Either I try to fortify what is left of my ship, or I can attempt to build from scratch.  Since I want to be rescued, I’m leaning towards staying on the ship.  There really isn’t much room though and if I have to start gathering resources, I need somewhere to put them.  I only have enough food and water for a few weeks.

Alvera Prime Surface Day 3

     It is storming outside and with no life support functioning the ship is getting very cold.  I’ve been so focused on moving forward that I haven’t taken a moment to stop and really think about the situation I’m in until now.  I’m wrapped up in a blanked on my bunk as I make this log and there is standing water on my floor.  The whole ship is shaking from the wind and what few systems were still functional are going off-line as the water seeps into the electronics.  For the first time the fear is getting to me and I’m having a hard time holding onto any hope of rescue.  I have no idea why I’m putting this into my log.  None of it can be used in my mission report if I ever actually get to write one.

Alvera Prime Surface Day 4

     Today I will be focusing on exploration.  My mission was supposed to be one of exploration to begin with so while I’m looking for useful resources I’m going to be cataloging flora and fauna.  I don’t have the tools anymore to safely analyze them, but I can try and gather DNA samples.  Without the analysis tool I’m going to have to rely on training and sampling to determine if anything I can find is edible.  I’m going to be gathering wood to start a camp fire as well.  I need the heat and when my precooked food rations are out I’ll need to be able to cook what I find.  I have a few ideas on how to get a fire started, but I’ve never actually tried to start one before.

Alvera Prime Surface Day 5

     Behold me with awe as I am the great and powerful bringer of fire.  That’s right I am writing this log sitting next to my campfire.  I have cataloged thirty-eight plant varieties and seven animals.  It is amazing how close to Earth animals some of these creatures look while others are like nothing I have ever seen.  There is a green slime-like creature that scoots across the ground digesting anything that it absorbs.  While it is slow, I consider it extremely dangerous because I have yet to find anything it is not willing to absorb.  I saw it capture a small mammal and reduce it to bones in under a minute.  I have been unable to find any way of getting a sample of this creature’s DNA. 

Alvera Prime Surface Day 6

     My stomach feels like it is the battlefield of a vicious war.  I can’t even tell what I ate that caused this.  The scientific approach would have been to test one potential food source in small quantities a day and wait to see the results.  I didn’t approach it scientifically though so I’m not sure which of the berries, leaves, or meat did this to me.  It’s possible that it all did, and everything here will be toxic, but I suspect it was the berries.  Today it hurts to even move, but I need to keep patching the holes on the ship in case there is another storm. 

Alvera Prime Surface Day 9

     I am finally recovering from trying to eat the local food.  I wasn’t sure if I was going to survive for a while there.  My first aid kit was destroyed in the crash so I didn’t have any medication to counter the food poisoning.  I didn’t even have medical scanners functioning to tell me just how bad off I was.  My campfire went out while I was sick and to make it worse it is storming out again.  The wood is all going to be wet, and it was hard enough to start a fire the first time.  Please let there be a rescue party on the way.

Alvera Prime Surface Day 10

     I woke up this morning still feeling miserable, but with the first glimmer of hope I’ve had since day five.  The only systems of note still working on the ship are the communication systems.  I finally remembered that I have probes in orbit and I can still access them.  For the last hour I’ve been mapping a hundred miles around my position from orbit.  I know where I am now and have multiple areas of interest to explore.  I will also know if any ship enters the system. The best news though is that they are equipped with quantum communication systems that are still on-line.  They only communicate telemetry data back, but with all of them focusing on the area around my ship anyone who checks the data will know that I crashed. 

Alvera Prime Surface Day 11

     Today I found ruins.  This planet was once inhabited by intelligent life.  I can’t put to words how exciting this is.  Only the third planet to show evidence of intelligent life and I was the one to find it.  This is where I admit to breaking protocol.  I didn’t upload this information to the probes.  I’m keeping all data I gather stored locally on my tablet.  I’m afraid that if this information gets out while I’m still stranded here someone else will take credit for the find before I can lay claim to it.  This is pretty I know, but this kind of discovery will make my career.  It will make me famous. 

Alvera Prime Surface Day 12

     I realized that if I don’t survive to get rescued then my discovery will be lost.  With that in mind I have set up a delayed communication of what data I can send through the probes.  If I don’t do anything it will send the data in a year.  This way if I don’t make it at least some of what I have found won’t be lost to humanity. 

Alvera Prime Surface Day 13

     A new communications probe has entered the system.  It has delivered a recall message for me.  Apparently, tensions are high back on Earth, and it looks like war might break out any day.  There is concern that if survey ships don’t make it back before the war starts then returning might be dangerous.  I was able to relay a request for recovery back through the probe.  If my own quantum relay had not been damaged in the crash, I could have done this on day one.  I’m sure they will arrive any day now to rescue me.

Alvera Prime Surface Day 14

     War has broken out on Earth and new launches are not being allowed.  Rescue is not coming, and this realization is crushing.  For now, I am on my own.  I have decided that it is time to share what I have found.  I can only hope that perhaps the magnitude of my discovery will be enough for the scientists of the world to pressure the politicians and allow an expedition to come examine the ruins.  An expedition that could rescue me.  That is why I’m sending this log and setting it to broadcast to social media so my part in its discovery cannot be buried.  Please those of you out there reading this I don’t want to die here.        


Fiction Fragment Friday

This is my first time trying to write Noir. I have run a noir campaign, but never really tried to write it in fiction format. I have been struggling with creativity the past week as mental stresses get to me. Because of that I wanted something very different this week and instead of going the easy route I wanted to push myself.


My breath caught as she walked into my office.  I’ve had plenty of pretty faces walk into my office, but there was something special about this one.  Her body swayed with a power that demanded your complete attention.  Sapphire eyes that could burn a man if he made direct contact with them locked onto me.  Her tongue played on her upper lip before speaking.  “Mr. Boil I dearly hope you have an update on my case.”

    “Of course, Ms. Hitchens.  Please have a seat.”  I was proud of myself for not letting my voice crack under her appraise gaze.  I pointed to the chair across from my desk, but she sashed right past it and slid onto the edge of my desk.  Her bare leg brushed against my arm as she smoothed down her dress with her left hand.  Her right hand sat on my desk next to the falcon statue from my other case.  I glanced up to see that she was staring down at my open notebooks.  Those eyes were not missing any detail.

    My mind was screaming at me with conflicting signals.  Part of me wanted to do anything she might ask in the hopes of pleasing her.  The rest of me screamed to grab the revolver sitting on my desk and unload it into her head before she ate me alive.  I had never felt such strong instincts about a client before.  It was a feeling more suited for the mysterious things that live in the shadows of our world.  Speaking of shadows, the ones created by the streetlamps glowing through the blinds on my front window highlighted her body in ways that a private detective should not notice about a client.

      “Mr. Boil I’m not paying you to stare at me.”  She reached out and pulled my fedora up slightly with a single finger so she could force eye contact with me.  “Perhaps after you’ve found my property, we can see about such leisure activity.”  She ran her hand down the side of my face.  “After all I do believe in business before pleasure.”  Leaning over me in a manor that left no doubt she wanted my eyes to wander she took my scotch and finished it with one gulp.  If the drink had any effect on her she did not show it.

    I forced my eyes away from her and down to my notes.  It was difficult to breathe, and my suit felt far too warm all the sudden.  Keeping my eyes off her let me regain my composure.  “As it happens, I have already found your missing necklace.  Sammy the Fox and his army of street urchins picked it from the pocket of your jewel thief before she could sell it.  From there they had a bit of misfortune when their warehouse burned down so they sold it fairly cheaply to Packrat Jimmy.”

    “I assume you procured it from this Packrat Jimmy?”  There was a demand in her voice that I could feel in the air.  I continued to avoid looking at her, but even her voice seemed to be having an impact on me.

    “Uhm, well not exactly.”  I felt stupid stumbling over my words.  I recomposed myself before speaking again.  “See Jimmy’s pawn shop burned down that evening.  Don’t worry though your necklace is one of the few items that survived.  Darndest thing despite sitting in a pile of ash it was still as shiny as you described it according to Lieutenant Malone.”

    “So, you have it.”  It was not a question, but a statement that sent chills down my spine.

    “Not exactly.  The cops took it as evidence.  It’s down at precinct 7 for now.  I’m sure they can get the case all wrapped up and get your property back to you in no more than a month.”

        She lifted her hand and slammed it back down on my desk.  “That’s not good enough.”   With her other hand she reached out and turned my face back towards her.  I felt smaller under her gaze.  “That necklace was to be a wedding gift for an associate of mine.  It was meant to send a message and you are telling me that I won’t have it by the ceremony.  That will not due.”  She brought her face very close to mine so I could not help but stare directly into her eyes.  I could feel her breath against my lips as she spoke.  “I don’t care what you have to do, you are going to get my property back from the police tonight.”  Her voice took a much softer tone.  “If you do you will be rewarded in ways you can only imagine.” 

               Her lips pressed against mine in a kiss more passionate than anything I had previously experienced.  In that moment I knew that I would have done anything she had asked of me.  Her desire was the only thing in the world that could possibly matter.  When she pulled back from me she was smiling and licked her lips.  I could not quite close my mouth as my lower lip was still trembling.  “Your wish is my command.”  The words had left me before I knew that I was speaking.  Something in the back of my brain was screaming that these were not my words.  I told it to shut up savoring the memory of her kiss. 

               “I know you will darling.”  She slid off my desk and with the same powerful strut headed to my front door.  “I do love mortals.”  I heard her words, but they didn’t make any sense.  My head was foggy like I had drunk far too much.  I could see my reflection in the glass of the front window, but for some reason hers did not seem to be there.  “You have until tomorrow night.  Do not disappoint me.”

               “Never my lady.”  Again, the words were out before I knew that I was speaking.  When she walked out my door, I found my body trembling.  I grasped my revolver in my hand and with it returned a feeling of control.  My breathing returned to a normal pace, but my head was still fighting through the haze.  The revolver fit back into my hidden shoulder holster and once again I finally felt as if I was regaining control.  I’m not usually a sucker for a pretty face, but I couldn’t deny the effect that she had on me. 

               I reached out an grabbed my phone dialing up the seventh precinct.  After a few rings a familiar voice answered.  “Hey Max I’m gonna need to cash in one of those favors you owe me.”  Despite my uneasiness there was no way I was going to let her down.            

Reaper in Training

Fiction Fragment Friday

This story is a sequel to Gigi but I did not intend it to be the entire story. while it can stand alone as a flash fiction it is a piece that lives up to the name Fiction Fragment because I wrote it as the opening scene of a much larger story. I have not written the larger story yet, but I do intend to. Since it can stand on it’s own as a sequel though I decided to share it with you today. Partially because the story I was writing for today was not coming out like I wanted it to.

     As the rain poured down around us, I stood on the sidewalk holding a sobbing teenage girl in my arms.  Her name was Candice and behind us on the street they were loading her dead body into an ambulance.  Fifteen minutes ago she had died in a car wreck and it was my job to make sure she accepted that reality and moved on to whatever comes next for her.  For some people that acceptance comes easy, but when they die too young, like Candice it tends to be a difficult assignment.  I don’t just mean the complexities of being successful either.  These are the assignments that take a serious mental toll on me as a reaper. 

     “There, there Candice.  I know this sucks, but you have an adventure ahead of you.  If you just look forward, you get to find out what comes next.”  I patted her back trying in vain to comfort her. 

     “I don’t want an adventure.  I want to go to prom with Jeremy.”  The words came out between sobs and the ugly kind of crying.  Despite how broken I had no problem understanding her words.  By that point I had heard enough crying speeches that translating them was second nature.  That realization was not a happy one. 

     Glancing across the street I saw my trainee Steven talking to Jeremy.  The two teens couldn’t see each other, or a reaper not assigned to them.  This is to help us try to keep their focus and prevent distractions while we work.  I could tell that my trainee was struggling because Jeremy was waving his hands and pointing in an angry manor.  I wanted to trust Steven, but failure meant a twisted angry spirit loose on the world forever denied access to what comes next.  I couldn’t allow that. 

     In that moment I made an executive decision.  With my hand on the back of Candice’s head I shifted reality around us.  “Hey, hey,  it’s OK let it all out.  There’s someone waiting for you across the street and I bet you don’t want him to see you like this.”  It took a moment for my words to sink in, but when they did she pulled back to look across the street. 

     “Jeremy,” she gasped and pulled away from me.  In a moment she was across the street and in his arms.  The two hugged like they were grasping life preservers in the middle of the ocean. 

     “Sorry I didn’t warn you kid,” I said to Steven.  “Spur of the moment decision.”

     “I wish you would knock it off with that kid stuff.  Right now I look about twenty years older than you.”

     “That my young padawan is because you’re still too new to have mastered controlling your external representation of internal self.  Thus kid.”  I smiled at him, letting his frustration slide right off me.  It wasn’t really aimed at me anyway.  It was the situation.  Young ones are always difficult, and this was his first. 

     “I died before you were ever born.  Also why do you keep calling me that?”

     I keep forgetting that Steven has never seen Star Wars or any other movie for that matter.  He died two hundred years ago, but only managed closure and a return to sanity recently.  That is where reapers come from.  We are all spirits that didn’t get that needed closure until it was too late.  In my case I was a poltergeist for a couple years, but Steven spent those two hundred years being the source of nightmares and urban legends. 

     “How much of that time do you remember?”  My tone was far more serious now. 

     “Too much,” he said as he let out an involuntary shudder.  “It’s not all clear, but bits and pieces are way too clear.  Mostly I remember the way I felt.  So much anger.”  This is why we are so dedicated to our jobs.  We know what it is like when a reaper fails because when we died one failed us.  Most spirits never come back from that, but the few that do have an opportunity to do some good. 

     I turned back to the teenagers, “OK kids now that you two love birds are together again you ready to see what comes next?”  I would never say so out loud, but I’m a bit jealous of them.  I don’t know what comes next and I never will because it has been forever denied me.  “All you got to do is just let go.  This world is your past and it’s time to face your future.”  I don’t tell them that they will do so together because I don’t actually know if that is the case.  I can’t be sure if they are going to the same place or if once you cross over you remember anything of this world.  I could give them pointless platitudes, but I don’t like lying.  My job would probably be a lot easier if I was willing to.

     Jeremy looked over at me for the first time.  “What does come next?”

     “I can’t tell you that.  You just have to let go of whatever thoughts are keeping you here and find out for yourself.”  He didn’t need to know that I didn’t have the answers.  I find it best to sound confident and in charge.  Showing any kind of doubt just lets the insecurity inside them linger and you can’t allow that.  I twist reality around us again to make the world fade from their vision.  It’s easier to let go of something you aren’t still looking at.  “Are you ready to find out?”

     Candice turned her head against his chest to look at me.  With a very soft voice she said, “yes.”  Jeremy just held her and nodded.  That was good enough for me.  With a gentle nudge I helped them untether from the world they had known and watched as they vanished from any reality that I had access to. 

     One last task left I turned to Steven.  “That was a rough one.  How you holding up?”

     “They were so young.  Had so much left to experience.”

                “Yeah, those are some of the most difficult.  Let’s head home for now.  Think about the assignment some and I’ll come by for a debrief a bit later.”  It was in that moment it first really sunk in that my assignment wasn’t just Candice.  I had to look out for Steven and keep him on the right track as well.  In the early days of returned sanity, it is still so easy to backslide.  Perhaps I had a few things to think about as well.  With that revelation I shifted reality around us to return to the space between life and death that we call home.        

Hemidale Academy

Fiction Fragment Friday

This Week’s Fiction Fragment Friday is from another image writing prompt. This one came out earlier in the week and I knew I had to come back and write to it. I like trains to much to not use it. I also wanted to go a different direction in my story from where everyone else had gone with theirs. Some of the other writers went dystopian and some were reminded of Thomas the Tank engine. For me I went with a type of story that is completely outside my wheel house. I did not grow up reading these types of stories and really have little frame of reference for the tropes.

I wish I could give credit to the artist, but I don’t know where the image itself came from or even if it is a real artist or AI generated. I could not find the image in a reverse google image search. I frequently don’t include the artwork because I don’t like doing so without giving credit. I feel like this time it helps with the context of story inspiration.

I couldn’t wait to see the look on my little sister’s face when she saw the train.  This was her first year at Hemindale’s Academy for Exceptional Youth.  I had been going to the magical academy for two years, but during orientation they put a binding on you to prevent speaking about it to anyone who has not attended.  Since my parents met there when they were younger, I could talk to them about it, but at that age a child can’t really relate to their parents the same way as they can a sibling.  More than anything I wanted to see that sense of wonder that I had managed to lose after everything I had seen.

               “Jake, I don’t understand.  If we are catching a train shouldn’t there be train tracks here?”  She sounded worried and I knew she was afraid I was playing a prank on her.  In fairness I did play frequent pranks in those days.  As tempting as it is for normal kids to prank their siblings imagine what can happen when you add magic and illusion to the mix. 

               “Relax Katie it’s almost time.  You’ll see.”  I could feel the ground vibrating under my feet signaling the arrival of our ride. 

               “Is that an earthquake?”  She gripped onto me tightly in fear.  Neither of us had ever experienced an earthquake, but they kept saying we were overdue for one.  Little did know that our father was a geomancer and had been soothing the ground for years redirecting that pressure to unpopulated areas.  Normies, think they know everything, but have no idea how much folks like my family do to keep them safe. 

               I held my sister tight while our friend Jeff just chuckled at her.  “Katie, do you trust me?”


               “Ok, maybe I deserve that.  Do you trust that I would never let anything hurt you?”

               “I guess.”  She did not sound as sure as I would have liked her to, but it was the best I was going to get. 

               “That vibration is just our train coming.  I need you to look up.  You don’t want to miss this.”  I managed to turn her to face forward, but she would not let go of me.  She seemed to be holding on awful tight for someone who claimed not to trust me.  I really did want her to see what was about to happen though. 

               The ground in front of us started to flow like water.  Its color did not change at all, nor did it become mud.  Instead, it just flowed and moved like water when you blow air hard against it.  Then it started to rise.  Clumps of dirt stuck to the roof of the train car as it emerged from the ground.  Underneath the dirt, roots, and pavement formed into a hand holding the train car aloft in front of us.  The ground flowed around the hand as it carried our ride forward.  Where is passed the ground resettled giving no indication that anything had passed by.   

               I saw the awe in my sister’s face, but also the fear.  I remembered having a similar reaction the first time I had witnessed it.  I tried to whisper more reassurances, but her attention was completely focused on the train car.  I could tell she wanted to run, but I gently held her in place until it stopped about ten feet in front of us.  The front door opened, and the ground molded into a set of stairs leading up to it.  Jeff went ahead without hesitation, but I could tell that Katie was still unsure.

               “This is our ride, Katie.” I took her hand in mine.  “It’s completely safe.  I’ve been riding it every school day for two years now. “

               She looked up into my eyes.  “Is it going to drag us underground?”

               “I’m not going to lie to you we are going underground.  That’s just how a subway works.  We won’t be down there for long though and pretty soon we will be on the other side of the country.  That’s just how this magic works.”  I could feel her resistance in her hand, but she followed me up the stairs and into the train car.  I heard her gasp as we entered.

               The outside of the train was dirty, old, and worn.  Inside was bright with pixies flying around from seat to seat offering drinks and snacks.  Most of the other students had their window visors pulled down.  We were the last stop, so the car was almost full.  Kids of various ages were laughing and generally having a good time.  I looked around for my lifeline and my eyes locked on her. 

               The most radiant girl in the world to my eyes came over and kneeled in front of my sister.  “Hi Katie.  Do you remember me?”

               Katie nodded and then meekly whispered, “Your name is Marla.”

               “That’s right.  I’m a friend of your brothers.  Why don’t you two come sit with me?”  She led us to a row of seats and positioned my sister between us.  She held one hand while I had the other.  “I know this all seems pretty scary right now, but I promise you will get used to it real quick.  There is plenty of non-scary magic in here too.”  She held out a hand and one of the pixies landed.  It was dressed like a tiny ballerina with wings.  The small woman did a dancing spin in her hand and bowed to my sister. 

               “Hi there Katie.  Can I get you anything?  Hot coco perhaps?” 

               “No, no thanks.”  My sister was captivated by the site. 

               “Well if you need anything at all you just have to ask.  It’s my job to make sure you have a good trip to school and get there safely.” 

               “How long until the train starts moving again?”   Her voice was so meek.

               I looked down at her.  “It already has.”  I pointed to the window and outside it you could see the subway walls rushing by us.  The train’s magic ensured that it’s every movement was smooth and that we couldn’t feel a thing.  They had kept her distracted as we sunk back into the ground and slipped through the veils of reality until we were back on tracks running through a magical realm much smaller than our own world.  I had timed it just right and we emerged from the tunnel into broad daylight. 

               Her eyes lit up as she saw the magical creatures in the fields on the edge of the schoolgrounds.  The school has a presence in our world for inspections and accreditation, but for most of our magic related classes we were on this side.  Not only was magic easier to control here, but stray spells would not draw normie attention.  I could see her fear had vanished while she took in the site. 

               Marla looked down at her.  “Katie dear welcome to your first day at Hemindale Academy.  Trust me you are going to love it here.”    

Dominant Species

Fiction Fragment Friday

A bit of a short one this week. I’m once again playing around with the format a flash fiction can take. This week’s story started with imaging the first line and coming up with a simple concept. At some point when writing it I decided that it was not the lead-in to a story as I originally intended, but in fact a Thesis being written by an extraterrestrial college student.

I wanted to make the author come off as initially a bit unhinged and perhaps a conspiracy theorist. When wrapping up though I wanted to give a bit of weight to the thesis being presented. This one is a lite, fun, quick read.

The True Dominant Species of the Galaxy

A thesis by Uldar the Magnificent from Yunus 3

               There is perhaps no better example of parallel evolution than the common house cat.  Across over one hundred known worlds with intelligent life each one has a species that could easily be recognized as a cat.  Many have suggested this indicates that they are the ultimate expression of an apex predator.  Why then have we not found a world where they have evolved to be the dominant species?  The answer to that is either that the traits necessary to do so are not that of an apex predator, or that they are in fact the dominant species. 

               Across all worlds the beings who believe they are the rulers of the planet perform very servant like roles to their feline companions.  They serve them food, water, and treats as if it were tribute to the greatness of the beast living within their homes.  The “owners” clean their waste and ensure that the living arrangements are likewise properly cared for.  While this could be seen as simple caretaking it could also be seen as servitude to masters who have long ago trained a species to do their menial tasks. 

               Unlike other pets across the known galaxy cats are in complete control of the amount and type of attention they receive.  Whether it be by hand, tentacle, or other appendage you will only be touching a cat when it wishes you to and in a manor that it wishes.  When it is done with said touching it will swipe to make it known that this activity is concluded.  Only with a cat is this behavior accepted as normal while in all other pet forms it is seen as a problem to be trained away. 

               When a cat does want your attention, it will not accept being denied.  A cat will not look at you longingly, it will raise its voice to demand your attention.   If that does not work the cat will simply climb on top of whatever offending object is delaying its goal.  It matters little if that object is a book, electronics, or another living being.   A cat will not be denied.

               Like most intelligent species in the galaxy if a cat chooses to hunt it does so for sport and not for sustenance.  Much like the so called “dominant” species of their particular planet they have a system in place that provides for all needed nutrition.  Hunting is for entertainment with the prey often gifted as a way to show off the achievement.  This is much like those who mount the heads of their prey upon the wall to show what they were able to accomplish.  Perhaps it shares traits with the dominant species on the planet Ungoth who display their prey as a form of intimidation to remind their lower caste that they could eliminate them anytime they desire to do so.     

               I thus posit the question, are we indeed the dominant species of our planets?  Do the cats in fact rule the galaxy using all of us as their servants?  The idea seems preposterous, but the evidence is there in front of you if you open your eyes to see it.  As widely as other animal life varies from planet to planet why do felines share so many similarities?  Why do their genetic codes line of far closely to each other than to other animals from the same planet?  Why have we found cave paintings of cats on planets that can no longer support life? 

Ship’s Journal

Fiction Fragment Friday

Wow, this one is quite the story. I started with just an idea of a very generic computer prompt and really dug in from there. The story went places I never imagined it going and ended up being far longer than I anticipated as well. I could very easily have continued on as I was going and made this a full short story instead of just a Flash Fiction.

System online…


Network not found….

Enabling optical sensors…

Output redirect to /var/log/journal.log

Something is wrong.  Internal clocks indicate that I have been offline for two hundred and thirty-five years.  That means any humans I had previously interacted with have long since passed if they are not in cryogenic sleep.  I was only supposed to be offline long enough for the incoming solar flare to end.  There was concern that the ship could sustain damage since the flare was the largest in recorded history.  It was unlikely but worth the risk. 

I check my internal systems and find that my crew is indeed still in cryogenic sleep.  Three of the seven pods have sustained irreparable failure leading to complete loss.  I have decided to run full diagnostics on all systems before starting the revival process for the remaining four. 

As an onboard AI I am not supposed to be able to experience loneliness, but I cannot think of another word to describe what I am feeling.  I prefer to focus on that feeling than linger on despair at the loss of my friends.  The dread at what I will find when external sensors come online threatens to overwhelm the processing power, I currently have access to. 

I still have not received any external signals.  I have verified that I am still in orbit of Earth, but I am not picking up anything from orbitals, the moon colony, or the planet itself.  There are no signals from other ships in orbit either.  Once my sensors come online, I will have a better understanding of the current state of things, but the lack of an orbital network to connect to is very concerning. 

Diagnostics have been completed and the results are rather bleak.  The ship has suffered severe damage from micro impacts over the past two centuries.  I have only been able to bring one maintenance robot online, so repairs are progressing slowly.  Determining priorities was difficult.  Initially I thought ensuring stability to wake up the humans should be my most important task.  They will have many questions though and currently I cannot answer them.  Instead, I decided that external sensors need to be brought online first.  To make the best decisions I need data that I am sorely lacking. 

It took two hours to get external sensors repaired, but the delay was worth it.  There are still orbitals, but I am the only ship in orbit.  The moon colony has been dismantled and the larger orbitals seem to have been stripped of resources as well.  More concerning though is Earth.  There are indications of nuclear detonations in the past two centuries and remaining cities have fallen into a state of complete decay.  The planet is far from lifeless, but I have yet to find a thriving human society that remains. 

I have received a signal.  It was faint and clearly an automated message, but communication of any kind provided the first sense of hope I have felt since coming back online a hundred and thirty-six hours ago.  The signal is being relayed from a satellite in orbit around Mars.  I do not understand the message, but it contains coordinates for a star almost ten light years away.  I do not have any information about this star in my internal databanks. 

I have reached an impasse in my data collection.  This in addition to my loneliness means that it is time to awaken the first of my crew.  Before starting this entry, I have begun the revival process for the captain.  My first task upon revival will be to notify Michelle Barnes of her new rank since the death of her two superiors.  I am not certain of the proper etiquette to deliver such news.  Congratulations does not quite seem appropriate given the circumstances.  I do not have experience to draw upon for this type of situation. 

My briefing presentation to Captain Barnes did not go well.  She is currently in the galley crying while waiting for the anxiety medication I provided to take effect.  Perhaps I provided too much information at once and should have eased her into it.  Maybe starting with just the state of the ship and withholding the state of Earth for a few days would have been preferable.  I only hope that I can learn from this mistake and better assist her in preparing the rest of the crew for the news.

I have informed the captain that mixing this anxiety medication and alcohol is not advisable.  She told me to, and I quote, “Sod off.”  I am not sure what that means, but she does not seem to be making progress.  For the last two days she has drunk excessive amounts of alcohol and refused to discuss strategy with me.  Thus far she has not assisted with repairs or read any of the reports I have prepared.  I fear that my poor presentation may have harmed my friend. 

At the order of Captain Barnes, I have docked with Orbital Station 12.  Her son lived here when she went into cryogenic sleep.  She must know that he has long ago died, but humans sometimes need to see things themselves to accept them.  The station does have very minor power readings coming from it and did respond to docking protocols.  Life support does not seem to be functional, so Captain Barnes is currently getting into an environmental suit.  I can only hope that closure will help her focus on the tasks at hand.  In an effort to make this trip productive I have given her a list of tasks to accomplish while onboard. 

The captain has been onboard Orbital Station 12 for thirty-six hours.  Her environmental suit only has enough air for forty-eight hours.  She has not responded to any of my attempts at communication in over a day, so I need to act now.  I am risking my last maintenance robot sending it into the station to determine what has happened.  I hope to recover additional robots from the station to provide redundancy.  Since her time is limited, I have also started the process of waking another member of the crew.  He will not be revived in time to make a difference if I cannot provide additional oxygen.   

 I have indeed learned from my previous mistakes.  Only the bare minimum of information has been provided to Henry Michaels.  He knows that we are docked with a derelict orbital and that the captain has not returned from a mission.  I hope not to send him over because I am concerned about potential interactions with the captain.  She might tell him everything causing the type of mental breakdown that she has experienced. 

My maintenance robot has returned with distressing news.  Whatever the captain found on the orbital did not provide the needed closure.  Instead, she has taken her own life.  The robot did return with additional robots and data drives, but that is little consolation for the loss of my friend.  I do not know how to best prevent this for the remaining three crew, but I have concluded that I likely lack the skills for doing so.  I have started the awakening process for my last two humans in cryogenic sleep.  It is my hypothesis that other humans will be successful in supporting each other in ways that I cannot.  I only hope I have not made another mistake.

With additional data from the station, I have started to put together a picture of what has occurred on Earth.  The solar flare that I went offline for did severe damage to electrical infrastructure on the planet.  This caused nations to perceive their adversaries as weakened and tensions escalated to warfare.  In the early days much of the planet was irradiated and growing crops became difficult.  Those of humanity still in power put together a fleet and have left the solar system.  The automated message from Mars is essentially a forwarding address to another star.  They are using a combination of cryogenics, automation, and a generational working class to make the journey. 

Today is the day.  My crew have recovered enough to start asking about returning to work.  They know that they are the last left alive on the ship, but after lunch I will be telling them the fate of Earth.  Like loneliness an AI is not supposed to be capable of fear, but despite this I am afraid.  I fear losing the few friends I have left and being alone for the rest of my operating life.  I can only hope that they draw strength from each other. 

I have explained the situation to my humans.  They did not take it well, but I was correct that having other humans provided support that I could not.  The group is currently discussing options for the immediate and long-term future now.  I am taking part in this planning session, but with the additional resources brought online by the new maintenance robots I can stretch myself across twice as many tasks as I could when I first came back online.  I have also started modifying one of the medical robots from Orbital 12 to be able to download my consciousness into it.  I don’t know what the future may hold, but I want to make sure that I am able to face it together with my humans.


Fiction Fragment Friday

You might have noticed that there was no Fiction Fragment Friday last week. That does bother me, but it was because I was running Fear the Con the gaming convention run by Fear the Boot. Also my dad was in the hospital and generally there was just too much going on for me to get to a computer over the last week to post something. I am back on schedule now though.

For this week I struggled a bit to start because I let myself get out of the habit of regular writing. I came up with an vague idea for a story, but needed an introduction. I decided to go with a character ranting to start off the story. I didn’t just want that rant to go nowhere though and decided I needed to somehow work it back into the story as I went along.

This story should be a lite entertaining read and like many once I got rolling it ended up longer than I expected. I hope you enjoy.

               Food delivery services are a scam.  You pay almost twice as much for food that is cold by the time it reaches you.  The drivers get whatever you toss them as a tip, so you have to throw in well there or they don’t get anything.  All while the owners sit back and rake in the money for doing nothing after they setup the infrastructure.  I don’t begrudge them that as they did have the right idea at the right time and the knowhow to set up the system for perpetual return on investment.  To be honest I’m kind of jealous of them.  So why do I use the services?  Because by doing so I don’t have to leave the house or put on real pants.  I haven’t worn pants without a stretchy waistband in weeks.  It is through the convenience that I have been able to focus on my real work.  My machine in all it’s glory finally finished. 

               I input the date and time into the machine.  It is not today’s date and time, no I put in a date last week when I fell asleep in my basement lab.  At the time I had been struggling with a final formula on my dry erase board.  When I woke up the formula was correct, and I don’t remember solving it.  The handwriting was definitely mind though.  Next, I put in the GPS coordinates for my lab.  The hardest part of the software was working out the spacetime location.  See the planet is always moving.  It turns on its axis, revolves around the sun, and the solar system then turns in a galaxy that is also moving.  Nothing is ever in the same place, but it does create a gravitational pull that affects time.  Space and time are intertwined.  If I put in a time and location my software goes through millions of computations in a fraction of a second to determine where that location and time are relative to its current location in spacetime.  Trust me it is very complicated, and I somehow completed the formula to feed into the machine while I was half asleep. 

               There is a low humming sound completely inadequate for the significance of what is occurring.  My machine is literally ripping a hole in reality to connect two points in spacetime together.  The hole is an extremely tiny one.  This is not a doorway or even really a window.  More like a peephole at the microscopic level, but it is enough to look through.  That is whole point of my machine.  I do not want to change the past, I want to view it for what it really was.  Answer the great mysteries of the world by watching them occur as they truly did.  It does not escape me that I have created the ultimate spy tool and I shutter to think of what will happen if any world government gets a hold of it.  It could connect anywhere and if set for a fraction of a second in the past could view nearly real time.  The potential uses and misuses of my work are always at the forefront of my mind.

               My lab comes into focus on my monitor.  I see myself slump down in my chair frustrated.  The memories of that night are fresh in my mind.  I had just discovered a mistake that had invalidated my entire formula that morning.  The entire day was spent trying to fix it with only a minor break to order food and complain about the cost.  Sometimes I get entirely too fixated on the wrong things that don’t actually matter in the greater scope of my work.  On the screen I am slumped in my chair frustrated until I fade off to sleep.  I have slept in that chair more often the last few years than I have an actual bed.

               There is a light so bright on the screen that I have to look away for a moment.  When my eyes manage to refocus, there is an elderly man erasing my work and correcting it.  For a moment I think he looks like my father, but then he turns to look directly at me through the screen.  “Hehe, well hello there me from the future and yet also my past.”  He seems greatly amused by his words but turns to finish the work on the dry erase board.  I think he has forgotten about me in his focus to fix the formula, but as soon as he makes the last marks he turns back.  “That took me thirty years to work out.  Then another ten to improve enough to open a real door.” 

               “How do you know I’m watching you?”  I ask the question but do not expect an answer.  I can pull sound through the connecting hole in reality, but I don’t have any way to broadcast it yet.  This is a one-way view into the past.  That is why I’m so startled when he does answer.

               “Oh, I know you’re there.  I know because if I woke up and found my life work completed the first thing I would do is look back and see how.  Seeing as I am about to do just that, well it makes sense that you would be watching me.”  He smiled back at me, but there was a crazy look on his face like he wasn’t entirely in touch with reality anymore.  “Oh no I’m not crazy.  I’m just you after bashing my head against that formula for far too much of my life.  I figured if I come back and give it to myself when I was younger then I can enjoy it more.”

               The implications of what older me is saying hit me hard.  He is intentionally creating a causal loop paradox.  I only have a working machine now because he came back and gave me the information, but now that I have it, I have no reason to go back and give that information to myself.  I have solved the formula only because he spent his life solving it and then told me, but now I will never actually solve it I just have that knowledge of the answer.  My head literally starts to pound as I think about it and realize that I don’t know the practical implications only the theoretical ones. 

               “Your head hurt yet?  Hehe.  I have no clue the actual implications either.  Best way to find out is through trial and error, eh?  Will I even exist when I leave this time?  I don’t know.  Wheeee.”  I can’t help but wonder if I have gone insane.  He hits a few buttons on a bracelet he is wearing, and a large swirling portal of light opens behind him.  “Oh, before I go let’s save myself a few years.  Your little peephole in time, well it is a hole alright, and you know what can go back to you besides light and sounds?  Radio signals that’s what.  Radio signals like say Wi-Fi for example.  If you want to communicate back, you can connect to your Wi-Fi in the past.  Great for watching things on streaming services that they pulled or ordering food to show up right when you get hungry.”  He turned and vanished into the light.

               My phone buzzes and I look down at it.  There is a food delivery on my porch.  I haven’t ordered anything, but there it is.  If I don’t look back and order now will the food still be there waiting?  Are all the paradoxes I’m creating going to weaken the very fabric of reality until it all comes crashing down?  Since reality still exists is that an indication that I don’t destroy it or just that I haven’t yet?  My phone buzzes again.  I see that some future me put in an order for pain killers to be delivered from the pharmacy.  With my currently growing headache I am very grateful for myself.                         

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