Drones

Click here for the part before.

Robert felt like he was floating for a moment, suspended in the darkness. The darkness had texture this time, grainy almost. Wafting down onto him, it was actually hair. Long, dark hair flowed around him and his eyes adjusted to see another pair of smiling eyes. They comforted him, he felt safe but did not recognize the face. It was beautiful.

The darkness turned darker and the face faded into a terrible caricature – smile pulled back painfully far to reveal larger teeth than they should have been with a terrible smell of rancid flesh steaming into his nose. He could not move and the laughter suddenly burst into his ears, his mind, and his body. The cacophony rattled his bones and he could not help but cry. No tears came.

The darkness opened to a tunnel, thousands of tiny points of light lining the walls and the floor and the ceiling. As he floated down the hall, body stuck in rigor mortis, he could hear that the laughter was coming from each hole. As the darkness enveloped him, he struggled to remember the face that brought him comfort, and he could almost remember. There was a name on the tip of his tongue, but his tongue was missing.

________________________________________________________________________

A car horn woke him up, followed by a loud shout of cursing and then glass shattering.

Robert rubbed his eyes. He hadn’t been this hungover since yesterday.

The window next to his bed had a thin layer of frost. He threw a shoe at the radiator and it rattled awake, coughing like he was.

“I gotta eat but I don’t want to cook…” Robert spoke to the air. The empty apartment listened intently to his sigh. “Another day of no work and a useless job hunt. God…” He trailed off as he opened the refrigerator, staring at the last remaining beer, a bag of broccoli, and ketchup. A holo-ad flicked on quickly and a dancing see-through hamburger stared into his soul. Opening his ration app, he saw he had enough for one more free delivery until the next week. He could either go and clean some delivery robots again today for pay or he could relax again and simply exist. Maybe sleep again before his next beer. Maybe he would have a good dream this time.

Maybe not.

A few clicks and a beep later, his phone chimed pleasantly to tell him that a large pizza was on its way, complete with pepperoni and spinach with a few slaps of diced garlic. His stomach growled as he ate a dry piece of broccoli to hold his hunger away. His dirty sink spat decently clean water into a nasty little cup he only rinsed out and never washed. He stared through the frost at the city outside, little tears of melting ice trailed down the window and pooled in the frame. He wiped his own tears from his eyes.

The dreams of his childhood were traded for this meager existence. The Great Layoff of 2040 was in full swing. If only he went to school for computer science or engineering… But he was not good with math anyways.

He sipped the water, a small chunk of something finding its way into his mouth. He swallowed without flinching as he watched the automatons flit about outside. Drones filled the skies with their lights, dancing in the early morning hours between buildings with their deliveries. On the ground, the automa-cars gently glided along, stopping for pedestrians. Sometimes the children would mess with them, pretending to jump in front of them to make them slam to a stop. Each time, the cars’ speakers would apologize for the inconvenience.

The sun climbed higher but the day grew darker. Clouds enveloped the skies as usual during this season. The shadows loved it, he imagined.

He was right.

Robert couldn’t tell, but the room grew darker just as began to hear the screams. Confused, he used his sleeve to rub frost off the window, smearing away the melting ice. Looking down the street there was a crowd of pedestrians, all talking amongst each other and gesturing down the street. He turned his head to see what they were talking about and saw another crowd scrambling around the corner. They fell in a pile, different color jackets blending together and sliding in the discolored winter slush.

A sickening sound, part crunch and part wet, echoed up the street. A automa-car plowed into those who did not make it around the corner in time, painting the sidewalk and part of the street in blood. It slammed into the opposite side of the road, which was his building. The building didn’t shake, but Robert did.

“What the fuck…” Robert breathed. The pile started moving outside as people clamored away from the dead and dying. “What a crazy malfunction… there hasn’t been a fatality from one of those autos in over a decade.”

The remainder of the crowd started piling into a cafe across the street from his window as another automa-car rocketed down the street and clipped the tail end of the crowd, creating a mist of red. Robert could see a severed hand gripping the door that swung on its hinges very slowly. He knew it was creaking, he visited that shop regularly. The neon flickered as he rubbed his eyes.

The chaos outside was complete now, people fighting to get inside wherever they could. One tried climbing into the broken automa-car, reaching into the window to unlock the door. The window rolled up and trapped them, their legs kicking frantically for a few minutes while other cars started rocketing down the road, slamming pedestrians into walls or driving over them entirely. Some even backed up and drove off to continue their rampage.

Everyone was leaning out their apartment windows now, screaming at folks to get off the street or just plain screaming in horror. Robert leaned out too, but he could not speak. He had never seen such gore and gristle, making him shake like a tree in the wind.

The shadows tingled with pleasure, watching and feeling what he felt and seeing what he saw. This channel was particularly fun. Thousands of eyes and twice as many ears.

Robert leaned quite far out the window, as it seemed this street was calming down. But cries could be heard echoing from a distance. Looking at the sky he noticed a few plumes of smoke coming from elsewhere in the city. His stomach growled, but he was not hungry anymore.

The people in the cafe stared out at the street, many in shock. An old man held an old woman closely, shielding her face. A strange sound came now, and everyone looking out the windows looked up.

Delivery drones hummed down from the clouds and started swarming the delivery chimneys for the businesses on the ground level.

“GET OUT! GET OUT OF THERE!” Someone shouted. “GET OUT!” More shouting now.

The drones piled into the cafe, and the faces turned away from the window to watch. Blood painting the windows within a minute, and no one could see what was happening. The drones, finished with their work, flew out of the chimneys again, scattering into the sky in a whirlwhind.

Windows began slamming as the drones turned to the apartments, automa-cars whooshed by on the streets still, but Robert saw one drone coming right for him, its red eye shining brightly.

“Fuck.” He spat as he tried to shut his window with icy fingers. It was jammed. He pulled so hard the wood frame splintered and a jagged edge sliced his fingers as he lost his grip and slipped down, falling to the floor and landing hard on his ass.

That moment, the drone screamed into his apartment, slamming into the wall. Robert scrambled on all fours under his bed. The drone hummed pleasantly, shaking off the impact. He could hear its delivery doors slide open, and it spat out a pizza box onto the floor.

“Your delivery, Ro-bert. James. Lowman. Has arrived!” The pleasant voice chirped.

Cold wind blew in, and he could hear the whir of the rotors keeping the drone level while it waited. It slowly started to patrol

It’sfuckinglookingforme, man.

He had to struggle to stay calm, then another drone flew in.

“We are trying to honor a customer service request. Please sign the screen.” The 2nd drone chimed happily. Both of their delivery doors were open, and their forklift-esque package-holding mechanisms clapped with the clang of steel. Not sharp, but enough force to cause some damage. They hovered around the room, and he waited under his bed.

Then someone started frantically knocking on the door.

“Please for the love of GOD let me in PLEASE PLEASE” knocking loudly now “PLEASE, PLeaAAS—-” A loud thud and the screaming turned to gargling. Robert could see two thick holes where a drone had rammed into the door. The holes were close to each other. The wood splintered and tore as the steel tips spread apart, ripping the door and causing blood and guts to pour inside onto his welcome mat.

“Have a great day!” The hallway drone beeped. “Customer served, successfully. Please rate us 5 stars.”

It whooshed away.

The bottom half of the door was splintered and torn. An already thin door was like a wet paper bag now, the blood soaking into the splintered wood.

“….Wow.” Robert James whispered to himself. The drones seemed to pick up on what he thought was inaudible. They whirred and hummed over above him. A jingle kicked on in the refrigerator though, the dancing hamburger causing the drones to cruise over and attack it. The fridge didn’t stand a chance, and neither did the drones as a John Brown-looking motherfucker kicked in the disgusting door, baseball slid through the guts with a shotgun and quickly pumped a slug into both drones, knocking them to the wall and the floor.

“You remember your wife yet?” The crazy man huffed as the smoke cleared, laying down while using some lower intestine for a pillow. The blood soaked his stark white hair.

Robert looked around in a slow daze. Then he started laughing. He did not come out from under the bed right away, staring up at a roach hiding in the bed’s springs.

It looked scared, too.

Thanks for reading, I will keep writing as much as I can! If you happen to know a publisher, let me know ūüėČ

Don’t Tread on Me

Click here to read the part before.

The crowd was bigger than expected, but so was the news.

The signs read a variety of slogans: Fuck the Chinese, Fuck the Government, Fuck Newsom. Basically the same as usual protests. But this was not a usual protest.

Everyone was brandishing their rifles openly, unslung. Someone even drove a technical, having converted a Dodge Ram into a badass anti-air gun. R.J. was just as quiet as usual. But behind his stoic face was a tense fear. A fear that seemed to make the shadows wet and darker than usual.

“So much for that stupid fucking stay at home order!!” Someone shouted. The crowd gleefully responded.

“They can’t tell Americans what to do! If the government doesn’t serve our interests…”

“Right! To! Revolt!” The crowd responded and cheered.

“That’s right!! It’s in the Constitution!!!” He pumped his fist in the air, spit flying from his mouth.

It actually was from the Declaration of Independence, R.J. thought to himself. But it didn’t matter. He agreed with the sentiment. The hand resting on his pistol trembled a bit, and he gripped it tighter. What if the Chinese really were invading?

“If the CHII-NEESE are invading… Why is it so quiet out here except for us?!” The crowd roared in response. One person, R.J. noticed, was not cheering, and was looking down at their phone. He continued chanting “U.S.A.” as he walked over to them. His job was to keep an eye out for Fed plants. Robert was always the observant one of their group.

“What is so interesting?” R.J. said as he grabbed their phone. They looked up in a jerk, the movement removing their sweater hood. It was a young man, maybe 15.

“I can’t tell what is real anymore, and what… isn’t…” The kid couldn’t be heard, but Robert could read his lips.

“Sorry kid, I thought… Wait what is this?” Robert looked at the phone screen, and was seeing a news broadcast of San Francisco burning. He radioed for Stephens to come over, away from his post at the edge of the protest. Stephens could barely hear his radio crackle over the din of the crowd, but he made it over.

“Probably fake.” He dismissed quickly. They all watched together as the Golden Gate Bridge slowly bent and collapsed into the bay. The kid snatched his phone back.

“I need to find my mom.” He said as he pushed away into the crowd. His own phone went off again in his pocket. So did everyone’s, apparently. Everyone stopped for a moment, the sound dying a bit as emergency alert sounds buzzed and beeped.

Warning. Please evacuate immediately. Stay at home order in effect. Barricade doors and windows. Turn on news radio.

The quiet began to give away to quiet chuckles and curses of skepticism and disbelief. But before the crowd got loud again everyone could hear it. A loud, constant whirring sound seemed to fill the air, growing louder. Men brandished their rifles in confusion.

“Everyone get behind the trucks.” Stephens spit into the radio. They set up a semi circle of trucks outside the Courthouse to protect from the cops that never came to stop their protest. Flags mounted in the back of some hung listlessly in the stagnant, hot air. “Everyone, stay calm!” he boomed. “They’re trying to scare us”.

Robert saw it first. High in the sky, a drone seemed to hang overhead. Something fell from it.

Orange. Red.

Ringing in his ears and an intense pressure in his head, he thought he would pop. His heart seemed to stop in his chest.

Black. Brown. Smoke, dirt. Red blood on a flapping yellow background, a snake seemed to spit blood.

“What the fuck is happeni-” Robert suddenly realized he was probably deaf now. He felt blood coming from his ears as he realized what had happened. Stephens strong arm stuck out from under a torn piece of metal, twitching slightly, finger on the trigger of his rifle. The gun was pointed at R.J., but he just stared at it for a moment. He could not hear, but he could smell. The smell of piss came from him. There was another smell though, something familiar.

Coppery. Blood. The area around him was a moving crater, filled with a sea of gore that twitched and moaned.

“What the fuck” Robert could feel himself crying but could not hear himself sobbing. He saw an eye floating, looking at the sky filling with dust and smoke. The cornea rotated downward to stare into blood and dirt. Robert vomited and tried to pull himself up.

The shadows were darker that day. It was not R.J.’s imagination. They watched. They were the real reason he felt so cold, it was not his terror. Not his disgust. Their eyes were innumerable, and they relished in the feast of flesh. They stared through Robert, some even using Robert to see. He felt his mind twitch inside his skull and he began shivering uncontrollably. He started to crawl away, pulling himself over a body that begged for help. Robert couldn’t hear, but he read the lips that bubbled and trembled as he passed over half of a face.


A boat off the coast of California bobbed easily in the waves.

An officer looked over the shoulder of a young man, and they congratulated each other as they looked at the computer monitor together. A greyscale view of a smoking city. Hot white flashes of white popped intermittently. Other young men at other computers were engrossed in their work. The sounds of computer fans whirring and clicking filled the room.

With a pat on the back, the officer walked briskly back to the CIC, informing the communications officer to relay the operation’s success. While the bulk of the forces made their land invasion, his detachment was already whittling away at the insurgency they knew would come after their initial invasion. There might even be a promotion, if the drones all make it back safely.

An officer in the August 1st Building in Beijing hung up his phone, smiling as he walked out of his office to relay the news. He nearly trotted down the hall, past rooms filled with personnel on computers, using Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Helping to organize more “Freedom Rallies” in the United States and disputing the facts that American news services were sharing. A rumor had already started that the massacres of rallies in California was a False Flag attack, as was the invasion itself. Naturally.

Shadows hid inside of the keys of each computer, laughing as they greased them. Helping them type faster.


“This is… Fun.” A voice echoed in the infinite darkness between worlds. “Truly… Entertaining.”

“Yes. What a terrible universe.” Another shadow mumbled and muttered. “Terrible” the void echoed.

“Can we play more here?” Others hissed in agreement.

“We have work to do elsewhere. Another scenario. Requested.” The first voice rumbled. The others hissed and hushed.

“Work is pleasure.” Rumbles.

“Work is pleasure.” Replied.

Click here for the next part!

False Flag

Click here for the part before

Cans popped off the fence quickly this time.

“Great aim, fellas.  This is what I was looking for.”  Stephens boomed from behind them.  10 men were lined up about 50 yards from the fence where the cans met their fate.

They were all a part of what they called a ‚Äėgun club‚Äô, but in private conversations they all knew that they were a quick response team in case anyone connected to them became accosted by the Feds.

“Let‚Äôs go get a drink.  I don’t even think mini-me missed one today.” Stephens tousled his teenaged son’s hair, getting laughter from the rest. 

They all walked together back to the big house in the middle of his property. 

Robert was a quiet man, never really said too much.  He had always been quiet, as far as he could remember.  While the rest joked about something, he was thinking about getting back home because of the way the wind pushed the tall grass here. Like waves on the ocean.

“Whatcha thinking about, R.J.? You look troubled.”  Jacob was a nice guy, always asking if everyone was OK or if they needed anything. A hospitable man who did not need to have you in his apartment to try to provide hospitality. 

“I‚Äôm alright, just thinking about the news again.  Always some fucking bullshit.”  Robert didn’t need to say more to get affirmative grunts from the rest.  All conversations now fixed on this tender point. 

“They just make shit up.  You can’t hardly trust anything on mainstream media these days, man.  I just stick with folks I met online and YouTube.  Get the news from people who are there, instead of some regurgitated crap.  All watered down and branded with a logo and an ideology.”  Stephens practically spat the last word onto the dirt as he kicked the dust from his boots. 

‚ÄúPoliticians.  And then you have these freaks in the cities, from who knows where smoking who knows what. And voting.‚ÄĚ  Jacob huffed, rubbing his Duck Dynasty beard with a big hand. 

‚ÄúNot even Americans in those cities anymore, I‚Äôm afraid.  You seen them burning everything down just because some dumbass got shot.  People get shot all the time all over the world.  Why freak out over another one?  Stupid as hell.‚ÄĚ  Kevin Stephens spoke for the first time since he got his hair mussed up. 

‚ÄúWatch your mouth, son.  But you‚Äôre right.‚ÄĚ   His father spoke softly, the clanking and shuffling of cloth louder than his words.  They didn‚Äôt need to be loud for everyone to really hear what he had to say.  They felt it. 

Jacob broke the rustling silence of the march with a ‚Äúgod-DAMN‚ÄĚ. 

‚ÄúNow what?‚ÄĚ R.J. said, causing some chuckles.  Jacob was always getting fired up over something online.

‚ÄúSomeone said that they see someone in their neighbor‚Äôs yard who is probably an alien, but they are doing yard work.  But look at how he looks at his phone constantly!‚ÄĚ He shoved the phone into R.J.‚Äôs face, instantly causing a headache.  He hated looking at screens, but it was the only way to make it in this world.  Sure enough, the video showed a man weedeating and stopping every couple seconds to check his phone and type something in.

‚ÄúProbably just texting his girlfriend.  Quit getting all riled up over mundane shit, Jacob.‚ÄĚ R.J. kept walking.  The rest made various ‚Äúooo‚Äôs‚ÄĚ and chortles.  Jacob turned red behind all his hair. 

‚ÄúProbably your girlfriend, Jacob!!‚ÄĚ Someone chuckled out. 

‚ÄúAt least I got one!‚ÄĚ He puffed.  Everyone laughed. 

The trees watched quietly.  The bugs were quiet, but no one noticed.

California air was hot and still that night.  The bugs now danced in the moonlight as R.J. slept in his bed with the itchy sheets he loved.  They reminded him of something he couldn‚Äôt quite remember, but he always got close to the memory when he was sleeping in that bed, when he teetered on the edge dreaming.  Vibrant reality stole him away from that place tonight. He was restless for some reason.  The bugs tried to soothe him with their song, but to no avail.

‚ÄúWater.‚ÄĚ  He stood and the floor of his trailer creaked loudly, scaring something out from underneath and into the woods.  As usual. 

‚ÄúRacoons‚ÄĚ he muttered as he got some cold water from the tap.  He opened his phone and went into his app rotation.  Force of habit.

‚ÄúChinese spotted off of Alaska?‚ÄĚ  Again?‚ÄĚ He gulped the water down.  ‚ÄúThey pull this shit almost monthly now.‚ÄĚ  It is not uncommon for the Russians and Chinese to dart in and out of our airspace occasionally, testing response times.  But the Chinese have been particularly annoying recently.

‚ÄúEvery time this happens people think they‚Äôre invading.  No one reads more than the headlines.‚ÄĚ He shared an article with the same sentiment of his attached as his personal caption. 

He filled the glass again, somehow thirstier than before the first glass of water. 

His phone went off suddenly with a loud alert tone, scaring the shit out of him and making him drop the glass and shatter it in the sink.  The phone leapt from his hand and into the sink in the same moment.

‚ÄúJesus Mary and Joseph‚ÄĚ Robert whispered to himself.  He cut himself just barely retrieving the phone and drying it off, reading the emergency alert message on his lock screen.

Stay at home order issued.  Chinese invasion of West Coast. Stay at home to allow military personnel to travel unrestricted.  Turn to your local news station.  Stay at home.    

Within 30 seconds, or about the 10th time rereading the message his phone rang out into the silence. 

‚ÄúR.J.‚ÄĚ He spoke

‚ÄúYou seein‚Äô this shit?‚ÄĚ  Stephens breathed heavily on the other line.

‚ÄúYeah, not sure what I think about it.”   Smells like bullshit.‚ÄĚ

‚ÄúCall your guys and I‚Äôll call my half of the list, and we meet up at‚Ķ Rally point A?‚ÄĚ

‚ÄúYeah and I will bring the signs we made last time, plus some blank ones.‚ÄĚ   R.J. was putting his wallet and keys into his pocket as he spoke. 

‚ÄúI‚Äôll add a link on Facebook to try and get more folks to show up.  This is obviously a false flag to do something worse.‚ÄĚ  Stephens chided.  ‚ÄúWe need a better social media presence.  We need all the good patriots to show up and show the government we don‚Äôt believe this, and that if it is true we CAN HELP!‚ÄĚ

Something about the way he said the last part riled R.J. up.  He did feel sort of miffed the government did not call on the militias they knew were all over the place. 

His turtle was watching him this whole time, stretched out under his heat lamp.  As R.J. walked out the door, it slid in the water to cool off.

Click here to read the next part!

Grisly Glee

The part before.

The crowd shifted and ebbed and flowed and Lowman felt sick to his stomach.¬† Grabbing his head he also steadied himself on a bulkhead nearby, letting his gun dangle by its strap.¬† If he wasn’t careful, he would blow what little food he had inside him all over the fucking place.

Breathe in.  Hold it.  4 seconds.
Breathe Out.  Keep it out.  4 seconds. Focus. 

SHAME! SHAME! SHAME! SHAME!

The crowd chanted as it pushed forward, the poor folks in the front screamed as the electric wall crackled and bulged against their flesh.  Kinsey was pissed.

“Get your shit together!” He hissed as he raised his weapon at the crowd.¬† Lowman did the same. A loud whirr came from behind them, like a gigantic RC car.

“Hello.¬† I am here to distribute the bio-suppressant.”¬† The pleasant and bright voice chimed out of the gigantic box robot.¬† Robert walked up to its side and pounded his fist on the opening mechanism.

“Thank you for your asssistance!” it chirped with glee.¬† “Here are the syringes.”¬† The crowd clamored forward again, the folks in the front were already pressed to death.¬† The electricity singed their lips away, crackling at their teeth.¬† Some were already showing skull.¬† Robert was feeling good for a minute but the smell…¬† He burped.

He couldn’t tell what was making him more sick, his hunger or the smell of burning flesh.¬† Or the screams?¬† The robot extended its tray out into the crowd, and Robert loaded the syringes onto the conveyor belt as it rolled into the crowd.¬† Some got caught under it.¬† People were rushing to inject themselves with the bio-suppressant.¬† Once injected, they helped distribute.¬† The roar of the crowd became a moan.¬† Wailing and hushed breathing.¬† Waiting and crying.¬† Then murmuring.

“Is there no more?!”¬† Someone shouted.¬† “We are out?” cried another.

Robert and Kinsey both looked at each other as a red light flashed to the horrifying blue.

“Biogenic weapon signature detected.” the ships computer coolly chimed. “Please take proper precautions and – – — ——————”

A silence filled the air as a bright green light swept through the ship.  Every deck was scanned from top to bottom then from port to starboard, the shields did not block anything.  Roberts stomach churned and his throat burned with acid as the crowd screamed, children wailing shrill and panicked.  One was staring with no expression, his mother smoking before him and writhing in pain.

His face bubbled and twisted, his eyes falling out and pooling into the puddle of flesh that used to be a little boy.  The pile moved and twisted and the people around were rushing and scrambling to get away as a large fleshy proboscis shot out of the mush, grabbing a man by the leg.

Robert and Kinsey opened fire, drowning out the terror before them.  Some folks were partially transforming, the larger people need large doses of the suppressant it seems.  One woman was half melted and moaning as the child-blob finally was dispersed, chunks of fleshy matter scattered and smoking.  No blood.  All chunks.

What used to be the woman’s hand had twisted itself into a rudimentary mouth and was attacking her torso.¬† She used her other arm to try and push it away as Kinsey walked up to her.¬† The electric wall parted smoothly as he walked toward it, closing behind him and Robert as they moved into the cargo bay.¬† Kinsey kicked her down and stood with one boot on her chest as he aimed his rifle and did a battlefield amputation on the affected limb.

Her eyes were wide with shock and the screams were honestly unheard at this point.  The whole cargo bay was now flooded with soldiers now, amputating and finishing off halflings.  Luckily there were no other full transformations.

“Robbie, get a look at this shit.”¬† Robbie didn’t really want to see, but he felt himself moving there.¬† He felt like he was floating now, empty almost.

“Now what?”

Kinsey was crouching in the far corner of the cargo bay, behind some wooden boxes.

It was a horrible pile of fur and claws and eyes, pulsing.  Purring.

“Looks like that shit blends cats too.”

Robert stared.  He remembered the cat he used to have.  A hand tapped his shoulder, and he turned to see the old man from before.

Shockingly white hair he had, was all Robert really noticed as he raised his gun at the man.

“Get the fuck back.”

“R.J.¬† We meet again.¬† How is your wife?”¬† Robert stiffened up and pushed his gun into the man’s chest.¬† The man stared into Robert’s eyes with a remarkable warmth despite their iciness.

“What are you talking about old man?¬† How do you know my middle name?¬† I don’t have a wife anymore.”

“Think of the fence.¬† The house.¬† The place that was filled with love and despite that you still lost hope.¬† Do you remember yet?”

A klaxon fired off, lightning shooting through his arms.  Robert pushed the old man down and he still did not break eye contact.

“Think about her R.J.¬† she misses you.¬† They are all looking for you right now and they can’t find you because you aren’t there anymore.¬† You are nowhere right now.”

Please brace for impact.  

The computer calmly chimed over the roar of the crowd again.

“We gotta get the fuck out of here Robbie!!” Kinsey grabbed his arm and started hustling him away, shooting a large man trying to wrestle his gun away from him.¬† Kinsey was dragging Robert behind him, he was still staring at the old man he could swear he had known before.¬† Before all of this?

Think of her

Robert wasn’t the best at reading lips and he didn’t have time to ask the man what he said.¬† An alien Marauder slammed into their ship, tearing open the cargo bay.¬† The room sounded like a giant vacuum cleaner for a few moments, then silent as everyone floated into space.¬† A final cold embrace.¬† Robert saw the old man floating, and read his lips again.¬† He seemed calm and pristine despite the swirling hundreds of near-dead people fighting to breathe in an empty place.

“Think of her?”¬† As he slipped away, he saw someone with long dark hair.¬† A woman he had dreamed about?

He wanted to shout.  He tried and heard nothing.

A chuckle..?  

Click here for the next part! 

[WP] After exploring the galaxy for quite some time, humanity finally makes first contact. Turns out science fiction got it wrong: compared to the other races humans are advanced, logical, responsible, long lived pacifists and the galaxy is a massive clusterfuck.

How they managed to become a space-faring civilization was a mystery. Glarkans were a blend of reptile and crustacean with a hefty helping of aggression. I had read the dossiers. I gulped as I stepped off the transport into the musty space station. The first human here. The second through 30th humans were my security detail.

The noise level was that of a souk. A normal one, not like that of Baghdad in the early 2000s.

“No bombs here. Yet.” Chuckling to myself to forget my nervousness. I ate way too much Indian food too.

What did I get myself into?

The noise level dropped as my detail fanned out, flanking my stroll onto their promenade. Strange beasts in the midst of arguments stopped and stared. They whispered. Clicked mandibles. Something not unlike a laugh. Shops closed their windows with a familiar urgency, as familiar as the feeling of rubbing my sidearm.

A large, obviously mature Glarkan towered into view. Ducking to get through a 12 foot doorway, he bellowed an alien laugh through drooping antennae. My detail flicked their safeties off and raised their rifles, and I hissed at them with a hand, palm down.

“Put those away!” I turned away, knowing they obeyed. The creature was already before us, and the others had vanished. Plates of organic armor were covered in scars and paint, clashing red and yellow and black. It crouched to speak, and we held out our translators to record it’s patterns of clicks and whistles. Similar to insect trills. A grunt thrown in for who knows what reason.

And we waited. It was impatient, and began stomping away the translators finally blooped at us.

“Be-gin. I wonder how you found us in this nebula. Are all of you so small? Why should we listen to you?” [[LAUGHING]] “What technology do you offer?”

I sent a mathematical algorithm in response to this first diplomatic exchange. They just managed to get space flight, so protocol dictates first contact. Easy diplomatic job for the practiced man.

“It’s a science.” I smiled inwardly. The being opened a data pad it had tucked somewhere between exoskeleton and hair. It’s 8 eyes flicked about slightly. The mandible mouth opened and closed, as if about to speak. But the response has to be careful.

“Congratulations for gaining a foothold into space. It is a major step for a civilization to get beyond their gravity well. You are now required to submit to Galactic Law. You are under the protection of the Consortium of Planets. We will be deploying a detachment of the Navy to protect you from possible pirate raids, and to prevent domestic disturbances.

We are also willing to share cultural information about our races, their poetry, art, history and characters. You may submit yours if you wish. Technology will be shared after a grace period of – 134,342 – of your home world’s solar days.

Failure to submit to the law will yield a disciplinary embargo of your planet. Our technology so outmatches yours, we do not need to take aggressive action. You will not be permitted to explore past your own solar system.”

It worked, as usual. I left vast amounts of data for them to peruse. Bylaws, and all the fun details of life within the Consortium. Taxes.

I kind of missed the days when they tried to fight back. But the only display that is needed is to steal their sun. A massive blockade of solar panels suffices to kill a world. Fairly nonviolent.

The large creature seemed to cower a bit. Then as it began to sign the line it shrieked and coiled up, appearing to pounce. The first squad shot their net grenades at the creature and the electricity has no effect on it.

The force pushed it back into the corridor and the smaller versions began to pile out of the closed up shops. Thunder of assault rifles echoed, and my earbuds muffled the sound to protect my hearing. With a thought I relayed to CENTCOM that shit had, indeed, hit the fan.

The high powered assault rifles tore into the creatures. They fell falling forward. Reaching.

The nets on the large one toggled to high heat mode as it regained its footing. Bright orange patchwork sizzled hungrily and brought screams from the alien.

I stepped up to it as the last Glarkan died bleeding green blood and my men reloaded. I placed a stasis field around it. A fine specimen. I plugged into its field a computer program that matched the beings neural waves. So to implant suggestions into it. And time could be manipulated with the stasis field. A minute could be a hundred years of whispers in the darkness.

The blue shield vanished as I stuffed the device stuffed back into my pocket. The 8 eyes of the ancient creature shuddered and were followed by a low hum with a click.

An alien “OK”.

 

Impossible. ¬†Something from another galaxy? ¬†Their technology must be —

“Sir,” A Fleuon broke his train of thought. “We are detecting strange readings from our long-distance sensors. ¬†Oscillating frequencies on radio and sub-space bands. ¬†They seem to be working to mimic neural patterns.”

“What?” I whispered. ¬†Suddenly a voice came from all around, echoing within the CIC.

“Please submit. ¬†We do not wish to rule over another dead galaxy.” ¬†The voice was deep, and resonated in such a way that shook his bones.

“Get the marines ready. ¬†Make sure all torpedo tubes are loaded to bear, and get anything that is space-worthy into the launch bay. ¬†Are communications down?”

“Yes, sir.” They all chimed in.

“Naturally.” I spat into the air.

Suddenly the Fleuons all convulsed violently, some sprayed out green fluid onto their consoles and shook so hard that their tentacles dented metal.  After several moments, they were all slumped over and dead.  I ran to the nearest, and felt that its normally soft body was now stiff.  Definitely dead.

The voice chided him. “We have destroyed your methods of control and communications by attacking the brain waves of those beings that run your ships. ¬†Please do not make us alter the wavelengths of our weapons to your neural frequency.”

I collapsed in my chair, silent.  Alarms flashed on consoles.

“Prepare to be boarded.”

I was as ready as I ever would be.

 

tales of a travelling salesman final

Thanks for reading, friend!

Should I write more about this character?

In the meantime, read this story my grandmother told me.

[WP] There is a portal to an endless ocean, filled with monstrous beings. After repelling the initial ‘leaks’, humans explore this endless, sunless, sea.

The Russian’s Sierra-Class submarine Pskov was the only craft of the joint operation to survive the initial onslaught from the other world. The rotting corpse of an impossibly large sea beast floated onto the shore of Chile, drawing large crowds of horrified onlookers. World leaders were scrambling to organize a barrier of some sort, a sort of control zone to prevent further creatures from coming through. Captain Rohkscov had no patience for the bureaucracy, however. He had just taken the liberty of attaching cameras all over his vessel, to allow for better perception in an entire world of water draped in darkness.

“Ensign. Any contacts on sonar?” The question came from a steel-gray beard.

Continue reading

Candescent Clarity

Click here for the part before

 

His heartbeat thundered painfully in his ear, mixing with the strange whispers that came and went like a terrible breeze between rotting trees.  He swore that he could feel spit spewing from empty space next to him as the strange language dripped into his ears.

Ko’se lano makora kojani noss’e

He shivered so hard he thought his back might spasm.

Robert knew that his wife would never make it off the planet, like most of those on Earth. There were only so many shuttles that were capable of escaping the gravity-well.  Not nearly enough.  They never made enough.  A terrible case-study of financial Darwinism.

He heard the airlock open, a whooshing creak accompanied by shouts and boots thumping into the passenger cabin.  Voices other than the ones from the darkness trickled through the flimsy plastic door to the suitcase compartment he crammed himself into.  A thin line of light gave him the air he needed to breathe and allowed him to hear his soon-to-be captors.

“Well, looks like Brillby finally offed himself. ¬†Poor bastard.” A gruff chuckle.

“Have some respect, Clark. ¬†The man lost more than most.” A¬†reverent voice said.

“Hey — I said ‘poor bastard’. ¬†Just… keeping it light.” Clark grumbled. ¬†Slow, heavy footsteps.

“Jackson, what do you think?” ¬†Silence. ¬†Boots thumped around, and he heard the steel click of a rifle loading a bullet into its¬†chamber.

“There will be no need for that, Clark. ¬†Robert and I know each other.” ¬†Robert felt frost spread within his gut.

Who is Jackson? ¬†I don’t know anyone named —

The compartment clicked open and light flooded fiery fluorescence into his retinas. ¬†Squinting, he saw the familiar sight of a gun barrel leveled at his face. ¬†A man’s eyes came into focus, eyes dark as coal looking furiously at him. ¬†A large hand came from the side and pushed the gun barrel down.

“God, Clark. ¬†You still can’t listen. ¬†You want to be stuck on sewage duty again?” ¬†The older voice chided like an irritated father.

“No, sir.” Clark still stared¬†at Robert with hateful daggers, unblinking. ¬†He backed away, and allowed the older man to step forward and stare at Robert. ¬†A shock of white hair on top of his head was contained by a small black beanie, a large and regal white beard covered his face and went down to the center of his chest. ¬†The bluest eyes Robert had ever seen. ¬†Like clear ice over a frozen lake. ¬†He had seen this man somewhere before. ¬†Somewhere. ¬†But where?

“Robert, get on out of there. ¬†Out of the shadows.” ¬†Robert sheepishly climbed down with the awkward movements of an older, out of shape man. ¬†A foot down onto the chair below – with hands still in the luggage hold – he began to slip and the artificial gravity caused him to fall — but Jackson caught him. ¬†Strong despite his age and taller than he expected, Robert was set down onto his feet by Jackson holding him under his arms. ¬†Like a parent sets up a toddler. ¬†He felt the blood rush to his face. ¬†Recovering quickly, Robert spoke:

“You said you knew me. ¬†Explain.” The men erupted in laughter around him.

“This one has balls, lieutenant.” ¬†Lee giggled.

“Leave us.” Jackson whispered. ¬†The two guards exchanged glances.

“Sir?” They both said together. ¬†Jackson remained silent, simply looking at them from the corner of his eyes. ¬†They both looked at each other and shrugged in unison, walking toward the airlock.

“We’ll be right outside, sir.” ¬†Jackson waved his left hand at them, his right on his sidearm.

“I know why you’re here, Robert. ¬†Do you?” ¬†Jackson asked as he stared¬†unblinking with wolf-eyes. ¬†Robert replied with silence and a stare.

“I finessed my way into this universe. ¬†I followed you from outside your real home, back on Sedgebrook Drive. ¬†You fell through quite the rabbit hole. ¬†Again. ¬†Do you know what’s happening yet?”

“What are you talking about? ¬†Sedgebrook? ¬†I lived outside of the city, within view of the Great Elevator. ¬†What do you mean, ‘this universe’? ¬†Who are you!?” ¬†Robert said.

The older man shook his head.

“When you think of your wife, what memories do you see?” ¬†Robert’s heart skipped a beat. ¬†Those strange memories of a different timeline flashed again into his vision as he conjured the image of Linda’s face. ¬†Something was horribly wrong.

“I… I don’t know what’s happening to me. ¬†These memories aren’t –”

“Those are your true memories, Robert. ¬†Each time you slip between worlds, they become harder to see. ¬†Given enough time, they will vanish completely. ¬†You have to focus, focus on your love. ¬†That’s the only thing that they don’t understand.”

A thunderous explosion shook the Gwaden, and they both lost their footing and fell into seats across the aisle from each other. ¬†They locked eyes and Jackson stood remarkably fast for someone his age. ¬†He leaned over Robert and put his left thumb in the middle of his forehead with a soft force and his right thumb into the skin over his heart. ¬†An electric current rushed through Robert, and memories he had forgotten about rushed back to him in an instant. ¬†The cold forest. ¬†The sands of post-war America. ¬†The lights flickered and died inside the shuttle as another explosion rocked the Gwaden, and the red glow of emergency lights filled the cabin. ¬†Whispers violently hissed, forcing fear to flow into Robert’s body. ¬†A fear laced with anger. ¬†He remembered everything now.

But for how long?

“They hate me, Robert. ¬†I try to save the souls they keep. ¬†You are not alone in this game. ¬†Millions of people over the course of human history have become trapped in their game, replaced by the elites of their malevolent society…”

A blast rocked the ship, cracking a hole in the hull of the Gwaden.  Air began to rush out of the docking bay, and he could hear the screams of Lee and Clark as they were sucked into the vacuum of space.  The artificial gravity created by rotation was stopped as the frigate lost power, and Jackson skillfully glided over to the airlock and pounded his fist on the emergency seal to force the door shut.

“They are going to kill us both, Robert. ¬†Fill your mind with thoughts of your wife, and your life. ¬†Maybe they will be strong enough to –”

Another explosion rocked the ship and there was the monstrous sound of steel being ripped apart, violently tossing the shuttle out into space.  Crashing and tumbling, Robert was bounced around inside the cabin along with Jackson.  He protected his head the best he could, and pissed himself only a little bit.

“Dream of her to escape, Robert. ¬†You must dream of ¬†-”

A stray slug of iron tore into the shuttle, tearing it in half like a wet paper bag. ¬†Robert’s eyes dilated from fear. ¬†Remembering the first time he was knocked out by the vacuum of space, he could not help but let fear wash over him. ¬†There were no happy thoughts to be had. ¬†Clutching at his throat, his lungs burned as the air was pulled out of them. ¬†He felt his eyes bulge, and begin to pop.

Stars looked on, devoid of emotion.  They had seen this all before.

And they would see it all again.

 


 

A washcloth woke him, icy on his steaming head.  Comforting.  Soft.  A skillful hand dabbed his fevered skull with the caring touch of a mother.  Almost settling back into the pillow, Robert began to sit upright and pain shot through his body, driving him back into the bed.  His legs were like hard, dead rubber.  Forcing his eyes open, the natural light made him squint.

“Hush now, don’t try to move. ¬†I found you in the dark wood. ¬†You should know better than to go there. ¬†Bandits love to ambush travellers. ¬†You had nothing but the clothes on your back when I found you.” ¬†Robert’s eyes had adjusted and focused on the elderly woman who was tending to him. ¬†The corners of her mouth were tilted ever so slightly upward, the tiniest smile.

“Where -” A cough thundered from his chest, labored. ¬†He felt exhausted and weak. “Where am I?”

Who am I? 

This thought he kept to himself.  Robert knew his name, but his mind was a terrible mixture of shadows and fog.  He was scared, and tired.  So tired.

“You are far from home, ser. ¬†Human land is a week’s ride from here, with a fast horse. ¬†And we don’t have any of those left.” The woman sighed. ¬†Something about the sighs of the elderly make one feel an existential despair, and it weighed on Robert’s fragile psyche. ¬†Tears began to form under his eyes.

“Shhh. ¬†There, there… ¬†Don’t worry. ¬†You have surely heard tales of Elven hospitality?”

 

tales of a travelling salesman finalClick here for the next Tale!

 

Infinite Ice

Click here for the part before.

 

The stare of stars from eons ago gave a passing glance to the tiny craft drifting slowly away from Persephone Station.  Veiled by the darkness and coasting through space, it went unnoticed on the radar of the large U.E.R. frigates that formed a mechanical canyon around it.  Drifting and rotating slowly.  Just like a bullet that was stuck in time.

“Even if a member of the crew looked out a window, they might not even notice this thing.” ¬†Jason Gathers half-chuckled as he took a small swig from the bottle. ¬†Nose burning from the scent, a tiny bit trickled from the corners of his mouth and bubbled in the small cabin around him, twitching and trembling tiny little amoebas of alcohol. ¬†Silence purred.

“Wish I could at least listen to music, this is going to take a while.” ¬†He gobbled up the bubbling bits of whiskey from all around him, and Jason reminded himself of a dog he used to have. ¬†Junior¬†giggled endlessly watching¬†the dog chase after the bubbles that Jason blew for the pup to chase.¬†¬†After papa taught him how, Jason Junior¬†loved blowing the bubbles himself. ¬†New liquid¬†appeared in the small compartment as he stared out the window at the stern steel sides of the massive warships.

These bubbles came from his eyes, translucent and reflecting the lights that littered the sides of the frigates.  Thousands of portholes stared at Jason.  He stared back.  Thinking.  His wife used to tell him that he thought too much.  After what happened on the mining base, she never spoke about it again.  She never spoke about anything.  Tears constantly flowed from her hazel eyes as she stared off in silence.  She gazed at the spaces in-between atoms.  A half-trained doctor that the workers had access to made some vague diagnosis:

“She’s traumatized, Jason. ¬†There’s not a lot I can really do for her besides some kind of therapy, and I don’t have the time…” The Doc motioned behind him – like a ringleader in a circus – to the lines of tiny dirty cots behind him in the cave that was his clinic. ¬†Coughs mixed with wheezing breaths and the barely audible sound of mice¬†chirping to each other from the shadows.

“There’s not enough meds to go around to fight this flu, and the accidents keep piling up. ¬†I’m doing the best I can. ¬†I’m sorry.” ¬†Jason stared back at the Doc. ¬†His eyes must have been hollow looking, tired. ¬†He sure felt tired.

“Look, Jason…” The Doc put his arm carefully around the shell of a man, and walked him out of the cave clinic and into the main cavern. ¬†Even through his shirt, the Doc could feel that he was cold. ¬†Stalactites poked down threateningly. ¬†They seemed larger than usual. ¬†At least it didn’t smell like gangrene out here, Jason thought absentmindedly.

“Just try and talk to her. ¬†I know it’s¬†hard… All of us cried for you. ¬†Just like we cried for the Willow family, and for the Karns. ¬†I’ll tell you the same thing that I told them: Talk, be with each other, be there for each other, and for god’s sake – keep working. ¬†Idle hands do the devil’s work, they say. ¬†Sure wish they’d give the guards more real¬†work to do. ¬†I hear they get fed well. ¬†I bet they could mine if they tried…” ¬†He trailed off awkwardly.

Jason stared at Doc’s face. ¬†He was trying hard, but Jason’s mind hardly retained any of what he said. ¬†His wife was essentially catatonic. ¬†She had one sick day left from work, but if she didn’t show up for her shifts then they would put her out the airlock. ¬†Just like the old lady Karn, after her sons were killed for insubordination. ¬†Jason forced a smile. ¬†The doctor forced a smile back and disappeared back into his clinic.

More tears were bubbled around Jason in the cabin of the craft.  His hand was playing with the grip of his sidearm absentmindedly, and he took his hand away to swat his stray tears.  Only a few more minutes before he would be able to kick the engine on, and get back to Axis.

An old proverb of sorts crossed his mind: “Revenge is a dish best served cold”. ¬†Space was very cold. ¬†He saw his wife’s streaming tears turn to ice in an instant as the air whipped out of the airlock. ¬† Tiny bits of ice¬†spiraling into infinity.

 

 


 

 

“I’ll never get sick of this view, R.J. ¬†It makes you feel small, every single time. ¬†It’s humbling.” ¬†Omar was looking over Robert’s shoulder at the Earth’s sphere below them. ¬†A beautiful¬†orb hurtling through space. ¬†The moon could be seen hovering over the opposite side of the blue and green glow below.

“I wonder how long ago that weird shrine-thing was placed there on Luna. ¬†Do you ever think of that?”

“Not really, Omar. ¬†I’m actually crunching some numbers in my head. ¬†Do you have the recent market price for yttrium? ¬†I think it spiked again because of the U.E.R.’s increase in ship production.”

“Sure. ¬†I probably have it in my folder here.” ¬†He started ruffling through his papers and Robert thought about other polite ways to tell him to shut up. ¬†He needed silence to think every time before a negotiation. ¬†“Robert-time”, his wife called it lovingly. ¬†She always knew to just give him some chamomile tea and to go watch the TV in the other room. ¬†God, he loved her. ¬†And he was lucky enough to be loved back.

“Here, R.J. ¬†This is that memo they sent out the other… What the fuck?”

Robert looked to Omar, irritated. ¬†His eyes were wide and locked straight ahead. ¬†Robert followed his gaze to the door to the pilot’s cabin, which was ajar. ¬†Dark blobs came tumbling and fluttering out, the strange dance of liquid in zero gravity.

Omar unbuckled his seat belt and pushed off his chair, drifting quickly to the front.  Steadying himself quietly on  another cushioned chair, he slowly reached out and poked one of the dark blobs and Robert watched as the liquid trembled away from him.  Looking at his finger, the color drained from his face.  He looked at Robert and mouthed:

“Blood”.

The sound of a heart thumping filled Robert’s ears. ¬†He and Omar stared at each other, each wondering what to do. ¬†All the while the blood tumbled through the air between them. ¬†Robert grabbed his suitcase, and he looked up to see a man wearing a pilot uniform holding a large knife to Omar’s throat. ¬†A skinny, long blade.

“I take it this one’s name isn’t ‘Robert’, is it?” The man sneered through gritted teeth. ¬†Robert reached his hand up and out to Omar’s horrified face. ¬†A vain gesture. ¬†The blade pressed tighter against his throat for a moment, drawing blood. ¬†Robert continued to stare in silence, unable to respond to the terrible question.

In one swift motion, the man flicked the knife back, pushed Omar to his knees with a hand and a quick kick, and stabbed straight down into the back of the neck. ¬†After a spasm,¬†Omar’s dark eyes rolled back into his head. ¬†The man grinned as the limp body was pushed onto the ground, and bounced softly back up. ¬†Floating face-down as if possessed. ¬†In shock, Robert could only feel a numbed surprise at how little blood came out.

“You’re coming with me, Robert — or should I say R.J.?” The sinister sneer was almost cartoonish in proportion to his face. ¬†R.J. felt cold, only his friends called him that. ¬†How could he know? ¬†Robert’s face was an open book.

“We know more than you might think. ¬†We have people in the Republic government, in the Consortium…” The man chuckled as he drew a small silenced gun and pointed it at Robert.

“We are everywhere.”

 

 

tales of a travelling salesman final

 

Click here for the next part!

Gravity

Click here for the part before.

 

Snapping out of the fog in his mind, Robert remembered he was running late for his meeting.  Hand tightening around his steel suitcase, he began to power walk through the crowd, meandering around people on their way to somewhere else.

Running late is one of the worst things. ¬†You have to choose between lying and being honest and either option sucks because you’re still late. ¬†Robert hated lying, so he tried to think of why he was late. ¬†He was… Sitting in the park on a bench watching the people and the birds and the sun. ¬†Not a very good excuse at all. ¬†He was lucky to be an executive, or he would be fired. ¬†But what about before that? ¬†Why did he decide to sit? ¬†He normally was never late. ¬†Or, at least, he couldn’t remember being late before.

Why can’t I remember more? ¬†

It was past rush hour, but the crowd was unusually thick. ¬†Like cattle in the early 21st century. ¬†He rode an escalator that was so crowded he couldn’t¬†continue walking, and he tried to think to pass the time. ¬†Tried. ¬†Peering into his memories was like staring into a fog with the sun shining into it. ¬†The past was an amorphous expanse of blinding light, and as he tried harder to remember he nearly fell off the escalator as the ride came to an end.

“Hey! Watch where you’re going!” An angry man he bumped into exclaimed. ¬†Robert further buried his irritation and began to apologize as he recognized a friend from his department who should have been at work already.

“Shit. ¬†Sorry, Omar. ¬†I’m in my own little world today…”

“Oh, its you! ¬†Happens to the best of us, obviously! ¬† I’m running late too. ¬†It was such a beautiful day outside I couldn’t help but daydream. ¬†The light was coming through the¬†trees in such a way…” Omar trailed off for a moment, staring through Robert’s face.

“I still get amazed by how different and… Well… Idyllic the world is now! ¬†It used to just be my family who would get strip searched but now everyone does! Hah!” He smiled large through his beard with genuine happiness. ¬†One of the first stories Robert¬†heard from him was about his¬†grandfather, a Sikh who was attacked because he looked like a “Muslim”, a follower of one of the many religions that became swept under the rug over the past few generations. Muslims and Christians fought for centuries over strips of land and ideology. ¬†None of that mattered anymore. ¬†There were some sects that still operated in secret, but during Unification religions became blended. ¬†The strange discovery on the far side of Luna shattered most human preconceptions about being the center of the universe.

“Yes, the world does seem to be working together much better now, huh?” Robert clapped him on the back and they began to walk together toward the shuttle-pod doors.

“Speaking of work, lets¬†get a move on!”

 

earth-and-moon

 

White tile covered everything, reflecting light ad infinitum through the hall. ¬†The ceilings were tall, and crystal chandeliers as big as freight trucks twinkled high above. ¬†A wide window at the end of the concourse showed the skyline, green and chrome mingling together in an awe-inspiring vista of civilization. ¬†People walked in and out of the pod doors that blended into the walls seamlessly. ¬†The ‘whoosh’ of the grand elevators arriving and leaving were subtle and¬†could almost¬†be mistaken for a¬†breeze. ¬†Robert looked up at a skylight, and something about the way the light came through the trees on top of the building made him feel nostalgic. ¬†Out of place. ¬†Something wasn’t quite right, but he couldn’t put a finger on it.

“No more daydreaming, R.J.! ¬†This one’s about to leave!” Omar began to trot, and R.J. got up to speed quickly behind him. ¬†Omar swiped his card and¬†doors whispered open and shut behind them¬†as they found seats and sat down. ¬†These pods are normally pretty crowded, but Consortium employees had exclusivity to a few. ¬†The V.I. hologram’s blue face appeared on the screen, on cue:

“Pleaaase fasten your safety belts, and place all belongings underneath your chair or in the bins above you. ¬†We will be embarking shortly to Shangri-La. ¬†Pleaaase fasten your safety belts…”

“So who do you have a meeting with today, R.J.?” Omar asked as he stuffed his suitcase underneath the seat. ¬†It was too wide, and he was trying to angle it just right so that it could fit. ¬†Robert was already good to go, and he looked at his watch as he spoke:

“One of the contractors… I can’t remember the name of the fellow but the company we are using for this expedition is the deep space one… Shit I can’t remember the company name either. ¬†One secon–”

“Oh, you mean Zaeonic? ¬†They’ve been out in the asteroid belt for a while, from what I hear.”

“Yes! That’s it. ¬†Thanks. ¬†Yeah they’ve been developing bases out there, and a colony from what I hear. ¬†It’s been some time since they’ve been back here. ¬†Almost 20 years actually. ¬†The contact we have had with them has had some good info. ¬†They seem to have found a rather large asteroid with significant deposits on it, that they say is en route to our gravity well. ¬†I’m meeting with advance representatives to discuss compensation.”

“Wow, I can’t believe they’ve been able to keep it out of the news. ¬†If its as large as your expression gives away, then they might be able to build another whole colony out of it!”

The pod began its acceleration up, like a bullet from a gun. ¬†Robert never got used to it, and his hands tightened around the cushy arms of the seat. ¬†The vehicle shook like it was an old plane flying through a storm, and the gravity pushed down hard on Robert’s head, and he stiffened his neck against it. ¬†Omar was shouting over the sound of the vehicle and the classical music that was supposed to calm passengers:

“You look green!! It’ll be over soon enough, my friend!” ¬†Robert’s eyes were closed and he ignored his friend. ¬†He was too busy focusing on not dying / having a panic attack. ¬†He had made this trip dozens of times, and he hated it more each time. ¬†He wouldn’t mind a slower trip – even if it took a day or two – if he didn’t have to deal with this feeling every single time. ¬†An hour was a long while, but after they reached a certain point, the force became much more subtle as the gravity from Earth became weaker.

“Welcome to Shangri-La. ¬†Please find your luggage and exit the pod in an orderly fashion. ¬†Thank you for taking the Great Elevator, made possible by Anaheim Electronics!” ¬†The V.I.’s face flickered a bit before clicking off. ¬†Robert always thought the face was creepy. ¬†Shadowed eyes with the¬†forced smile of its programming.

The pod doors opened to the gray, steel promenade of Shangri-La.  A variety of shops were doing business with the crowds of people.  A ramen shop was next to a Texas BBQ stand, and a gift shop flanked both.  Everyone walked about in their uniformed gray suits, some with red ties, some with the blue of the United Earth Republic.  Even fewer had green ties, which were either business owners somewhere or workers of one of the contractors for the U.E.M.C.

With a name like Shangri-La, Robert felt a bit surprised by how non-descript the station was.  Without the shops on the promenade, there was nothing of note on the station.  Sure, some back-deals were discussed over a latte or some Thai food once in a while, but other than that there was no windows or anything that allowed one to see the view.  The station was more functional than feng-shui.  Robert was confused by his surprise.  He froze.  He had been here dozens of times.  Was his memory already beginning to go?  As he searched his thoughts he remembered bits and pieces of former travels here.  Glimpses into the past.  Flashes of the faulty camera in his mind.

“Let’s get to the shuttle.” Omar said as they began to weave through the crowds. ¬†It was more crowded here than the last time he was here,¬†Robert noticed. ¬†It wasn’t even rush hour.

“Yeah.” Robert said, somewhat annoyed. ¬†Of course they had to get to the shuttle. ¬†Running late, no less.

“I hope that Zaeonic rep is running late too. ¬†He has a wealth of excuses that could be true, and I haven’t even thought of a good lie yet.”

“Well, lying isn’t your thing Robert! ¬†That’s why we love you. ¬†You don’t sugar-coat shit.”

“I was sitting on a bench watching people and the birds, man. ¬†I have to think of something else.” Robert chuckled a bit, embarrassed. ¬†Omar laughed openly.

“Yeah, you should find a better excuse. ¬†And don’t turn red¬†when you say it. ¬†Like you are now!” ¬†Omar laughed and Robert sighed as they both began to walk faster. ¬†They turned the corner around a cupcake shop to get to the docking ring. ¬†Luckily they had a private shuttle waiting for them, so no one was being kept waiting by their daydreaming from before. ¬†The military personnel surrounded the check-in kiosk for their shuttle, and pointed their weapons at them both until their ID cards checked out.

 

o-neill-colony

 

“Sorry for the inconvenience, sir. ¬†Move along.” Robert wondered how many times he had heard that in his life. ¬†Always the same phrase. ¬†He and Omar ducked in unison as they entered the craft. ¬†Luxury didn’t always mean larger. ¬†The seats that they had on there, however, were the best Robert had ever sat in. ¬†His rear tingled with anticipation as he set his suitcase in the overhead compartment. ¬†It was more relaxing than he anticipated, and he felt if he closed his eyes he could fall asleep instantly. ¬†But the view was too good to miss.

Persephone was off to his right outside, a giant wheel-and-spoke colony that rotated to create artificial gravity, identical to Shangri-La but much larger, and with great windows to look out of. ¬†The shuttle released its docking clamps and gently pulled away from the station. ¬†The view changed to be that of the Earth’s sphere, a grand orb beneath them. ¬†A giant marble of blue and green and sparkling white. ¬†The other colonies could be seen now, giant cylinders that had great mechanic arms that opened and closed to simulate night and day.

“O’ Neill Colonies… I’ve always wanted to visit one, Omar. ¬†They look awesome from afar, though.”

“Yeah, I have some family on that one over there — New Sydney. ¬†They’ve sent me some really amazing pictures. ¬†I’ve never been myself though, too –”

“Too busy.” The two of them said in unison, and chuckled a bit.

“Hey, we have to work to eat, right?” Robert quietly said as he rested his head back and stared out the window.

 


 

Outside of Persephone, a man paused in his ¬†work. ¬†His shuttle was docked illegally, but none of that really mattered. ¬†His mag-boots clung hungrily to the outside of the station, hanging in the black. ¬†He stood on one of the spokes that connected the two main rings of Persephone and looked up, taking in the view. ¬†It was beautiful, but the man’s face was unmoved beneath his helmet. ¬†He stretched, and reached into his pack to pull out the final charges. ¬†He set the big block of explosive onto one of the cross-joints, and carefully stabbed the detonator into the pliable bomb. ¬†The last one.

“I wonder if anyone ever made this stuff into a figurine or something. ¬†It’s tougher than Play-Doh, but…” Tears welled up in his eyes. ¬†His son was on his mind. ¬†Little Jason Gathers Jr. ¬†He would never see him again. ¬†The companies put him to work as soon as he could hold a hammer. ¬†He resisted as many in their early teens do, and the company security threw him against a bulkhead and shot him before the man could react. ¬†The man remembered simply falling to the ground and staring at his dead son’s open eyes. ¬†One of the officers spat something about how that hammer was a weapon. ¬†The eyes. Pleading eyes. ¬†Eyes that used to shine with such hope. ¬†Thinking of this memory his soul felt¬†weighed down by invisible gravity.

“This is for Jason.” The man muttered to no one but himself. ¬†Plans were in motion already. ¬†Everyone would finally know of their plight, the struggle that the rugged pioneers of space faced at the hands of the suits from the Consortium. ¬†Everyone. ¬†He climbed back into his personal craft and detached the cable from the station, coasting away on inertia. ¬†Silent running. ¬†He would drift for a couple hours. ¬†He took his helmet off, blew his nose, and opened a nearly empty bottle of whiskey. ¬†The last bottle he had. ¬†But this last bit would be more refreshing.

Hard work always made whiskey taste better.

 

 

tales of a travelling salesman final
Click here for the next part!

Sea of Faces

Click here for the Tale before

 

As the fog of oblivion filled Robert’s vision, he could feel the fishing boat tumbling farther down into the unnatural whirlpool. ¬†It was as if a massive hole in the ocean floor had opened up like some great drain stopper, and now all of the¬†world’s¬†water was pouring¬†down into the planet. ¬†Robert was falling and suddenly found himself floating in that great infinite inkwell of in-between. ¬†Apart from existence.

The darkness was not so complete this time, stars peppered¬†the abyss from great distances, speckling and sparkling from afar.¬† Focusing on them, Robert felt as if he was being drawn in. ¬†They twinkled and beckoned pleasantly. ¬†He found one, pulsing alone among the millions, and his vision was focused on it. ¬†He could not look away, and he had no eyelids with which to blink. ¬†It pulsed louder, brighter. ¬†He felt warmth emanating from it, a strong sense of comfort, safety,¬†and a dash of happiness. ¬†But those feelings passed onto an aftertaste that was a deep sense of… hopelessness? ¬†Exhaustion laced with defiance? ¬†Both. ¬†Waves of emotion washed over Robert’s mind, and he felt a strong¬†connection.

He tried to stare into the light, which was not any closer but pulsed more and more and faster and brighter and faster and then he was sitting on a steel park bench, the sun above pulsing with warmth.  Almost throbbing.  A cosmic heartbeat comforting him.

 

tumblr_myg0gbcehi1s5nozoo1_500

 

The skyscrapers towered all around him, covered in shining glass and chrome. ¬†They looked differently than any he had seen before. ¬†Some sides were straight, others sloped up to make a curved edge. ¬†Many of the buildings were connected by several bridges, and on top of the bridges trees grew tall and leafy. ¬†As he looked around, he noticed every building’s top in view had veritable forests growing from their roofs.¬† Many¬†buildings had large vines growing up the side, making this strange landscape seem as if the civilization had collapsed, and nature was claiming what was rightfully hers. ¬†Robert stared in wonder and fear, searching for familiarity. ¬†The architecture was completely foreign, and as he stared more and more it became familiar. ¬†The way the trees curled around corners, and climbed with the steel. ¬†Flowing naturally through concrete tubes cut into the sides, guiding their growth. ¬†Nature seemed in control of this world.

The streets were bustling, people wore business suits cut differently than Robert was used to.  They looked cool and crisp though, hip.  He was looking around in awe and listening to birds chirp triumphant as he noticed each person had a red tie, and wore gray suits.  One group wore blue ties.  Robert looked down at his own clothes, and noticed he fit right in.  The place around him was remarkably clean, no trash on the ground or any stains on the street.  The familiar cleanliness of a civilization with pride.  Robert felt a warmth in his chest swelling up.

Vehicles that he had never seen quietly swooped around the streets, and he noticed that they hovered slightly above the ground, rising and falling with the terrain.  Robert had never seen anything like this before, but inside he felt strangely acquainted. Staring at one hover-car, he moved his eyes over its smooth blue frame, shaped like a teardrop.  He felt confused, as he knew that this was all wrong, but how could it be?  He had lived near this city his whole life.  His wife worked here too, at one of the schools.  As he thought about the civilization he found himself in, he grew more familiar with it.  He had a job here, and he was late to work.

Robert stood up quickly and straightened his red tie.  This was the Port District, and he had to make it to the office in time to catch the ride to Persephone.  He hailed a cab, and felt the familiar dip in the hovering as he sat inside.

“To the Main Port, please.”

 

tumblr_mcmynkhtra1r93xiko1_500

 

The cabbie nodded and smiled and merged into the traffic with the nearly identical hover-cars.  The styles were all the same, save for the colors.  Robert remembered how thankful he was for the efficiency of it all.  The cars used hyper-solar panels, the technology that made the Second Industrial Revolution possible.  There was no longer any need for mining fossil fuels, but the rare-earth minerals used in cities and machines were nearly gone.  Lucky for Robert, he worked for the United Earth Mining Consortium, which specialized in mining near-Earth asteroids for the metals used in every aspect of society.  A extremely lucrative business and a near monopoly that was subsidized by the United Earth Republic.  Robert was lucky enough to snag a sales representative job and earn the red tie just in time for the mining boom of the last 20 years.  His wife taught at the local private academy, and they lived a picturesque life in a home with a view of Millennium City, where the great Port District in this hemisphere was.  On a clear night, they could see the twinkling of Persephone in the sky, hovering in geosynchronous orbit high over the Port.

The Port District was filled with Consortium employees with their red ties.  Color-coded ties for job sectors, color coded cars for different services.  All moving cogs in the wonderful machine of Terran society.  As he passed through a service industry bloc, he saw how drab a gray suit was without a tie.  He almost pitied them, but then the grand vista of the Port came into view.

From far off, the Port’s elevator seemed like a strange line dividing the sky in half before disappearing into the clouds. ¬†Up close, the sheer immensity could begin to be appreciated. ¬†Like a child looking up at a theme park ride, Robert strained at the cab’s window to discover how high up he could see. ¬†The Great Elevator stretched up higher than his eyes could strain. ¬†He knew that Persephone was up there, nearby the orbital station connected to the elevator that acted as a counterweight and allowed it to stay in place. ¬†Truly a marvel of modern engineering, Robert could not help but feel proud to be a part of a civilization that had conquered such heights. ¬†Both he and Linda would share that awe sometimes, each sipping their nightcaps and staring up at Persephone and the other orbital stations that twinkled with the stars. ¬†He never noticed, but she always held his hand a little tighter when they looked up together.

After paying the cabbie, Robert made his way through the military checkpoint. ¬†He never understood why, in such a peaceful time, they still felt the need to strip everyone down and comb them over. ¬†It wasn’t even degrading to him anymore, but just a hassle. ¬†And no matter how many times he saw the same soldiers, they never got any nicer. ¬†Humorless as they always were, Robert still tried to make them laugh.

“Geez, you aren’t even going to take me out on a date first?”

Awkward silence, save for the sounds of the metal detector and the shuffling of boots. ¬†Robert was irritated at being even later than he already was, but he buried it deep down. ¬†He didn’t want to cause a scene with the soldiers. ¬†They always pointed their rifles¬†at the crowds and at who they were searching, and Robert remembered his first time and how mortified he was to stare down a half dozen barrels. ¬†He nearly pissed himself. ¬†But now, it was just business as usual. ¬†The cost of security. ¬†They treated everyone as if each was about to detonate a thermal charge at the first opportunity, even though terrorism hadn’t been an issue for some time. ¬†After Unification, and when the orbital stations finally began producing food and water for everyone, times got more peaceful. ¬†Sure there were whispers of workers on Earth and in Orbit that were treated unfairly and exploited, but those were just rumors. ¬†No concrete evidence, and certainly no terrorism came of them.

Finally the soldiers finished their duty, and he slipped clumsily back into the gray suit and red tie.  Catching a quick glance into a mirror as he walked by to make sure he looked dapper, he made his way into the large sphere that was the vestibule of the Great Elevator.  Shockingly white on the outside, he always wondered how they kept it so clean.  Crowds meandered through the concourse as a monotone voice spoke about travel times and departures.

“The next run will begin at 2100. ¬†The next run will begin at 2100.”

A man at the bar nearby laughed louder than he needed to. ¬†A mother tried to comfort¬†her child across the hall. ¬†The miniature human¬†stood crying in the middle of what appeared to be their entire family’s belongings, clutching an over-sized stuffed bear. ¬†Robert stood as the crowd moved around him, and his legs would not move. ¬†He had¬†no need to, and he felt unnatural. ¬†Out of place. ¬†An observer. ¬†Like he did not belong, even though he had been here countless times before.

He stood there, alone and isolated among the sea of faces that swirled and twisted around him.  Countless conversations blended together in one unearthly chorus, and Robert felt confused for a moment that seemed to be a universe of its own.

 

Click here for the next part! 

 

tales of a travelling salesman final