Disaster Zone: Part One of The Retro-Earth Trilogy   Leave a comment

WE WISH YOU MANY MONTHS PEACE IN THE DISASTER ZONE.

The computer’s looped voice auto-resuscitated for the pilot as the ship descended across the line dividing Earth’s exosphere and thermosphere.

The B-4 Rocket Ship droned and shook as its final stage burned.

Vance Mulrik prepared for re-active berth.

Static from the cabin’s general speaker cracked and sputtered, whimpering, then emitted a robotic death rattle.

The rusted-out docking bay grew larger on the relativistic bluescreen attached to the left forearm of Vance’s suit.

Titan 1 crashed here a month before, he reflected quietly. I wonder if poor Hank McHiggins survived. Stupid rat bastard…

Vance tensely awaited his one act of ‘piloting’. This brief episode never arrived quite when he expected.

His bluescreen switched from satellite to dark green incandescent mode. The visual representation of his ship, a strobing red triangle, met the glowing docking prompt, a variable mishmash of white dots and vectors.

Vance winced as the wailing mechanical alarm of his implanted headset reverberated throughout the mycelurethane oxy-collision helmet. He reflexively reached for his sidearm, then relaxed.

He knew the noise. He expected the noise, but it shocked him every time.

Why? he thought. Why is it so f—ing loud? His temporal lobe ached. Why is it even there? It’s not like I’m gonna fall asleep. Except…

On cue he jammed open the poorly maintained safety on the master kill switch and toggled it up-left-up-left-right. The remaining fuel propelled as a gaseous cloud into the atmosphere. Vance cynically felt validated.

The rocket slowed, surprisingly gracefully for such an otherwise uncomfortable trip.

The burn eased and the ship clanged to a halt. Its cooling rockets hissed for seven straight minutes as the relativistically charged hafnium dome closed overhead in a jagged matrix of octagonal pieces. Vance found himself, finally, alone in the underground labyrinthine complex once known as Edwards Air Force Base.

Vance, worker bee, took a final deep breath of cabin air, fresher than that of Moon Colony Epsilon and easier than that of his suit.

He slid shut and secured the helmet faceplate.

Re-active berth.

Vance switched the bluescreen to white on black, the contrast easiest to read on Earth’s dark surface. He programmed the suit to a slow release of oxygen. In case things got complicated.

Wisdom from the hand of a veteran explorer.

A quiet moment as the rocket engines ceased hissing, the system sufficiently cooled.

No further computerized valediction.

No word of comfort.

Silence.

Sixteen months silence.

Posted March 25, 2014 by Andrew in Science Fiction

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500   Leave a comment

500 years ago, this day.

A broad, sweeping reminder.  We face it.

The monument.

Etched in stone, the inscription reads:

One circuit too many.

Posted February 25, 2014 by Andrew in Science Fiction

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Z! BrandS Cornstarch   Leave a comment

Zoetrope brand corn starch was marketed as Z! BrandS Cornstarch. Stocked on shelves in every neighborhood grocery store and supermarket, the product’s price was low, obscenely so.

Which made Emmett Vindermere wonder.

The Z! Corporation constituted a monopoly: what was the rationale for such a bargain? 

Sure, there were the generic store brand starches, but in all likelihood these were processed by the same company.  The generic starches comprised a minor competition, in any case.

As Emmett unpacked a container of baking flour beside the Z! BrandS Cornstarch display. As his back ached.  As the globules of oil separated within his spinal fluid.  As the dormant fungus lay in wait. He worked, wondering. 

They–the Zoetrope Corporation–could have charged so much more.  The ad campaign alone must have cost a fortune:

Ensconced in every media outlet, every airwave and ink blot, there appeared the ever familiar and congenial cartoon character Dr. Z!, hauling armfuls of corn from field to laboratory. A drop of bubbling liquid here, a sprinkle of pixie dust there and VOILA! Off his conveyer belt bounded a spool of dental floss, a strawberry-chocolate cake, a piping hot cup of soup, a car tire, a robotic leg, an electromagnetic relativistically one-millimeter hafnium armored police drone….all of society’s necessities, granting us comfort and protection, all from the mind of the ever jovial Dr. Z! and his multi-purpose Z! BrandS Cornstarch.

This submerged, well-conditioned commercial reverie interrupted and annihilated the previous and brief onset of Emmett’s anachronistic skepticism. He got back to work, whistling a familiar radio jingle. Not begrudging the onset of arthritis in his left knee, nor the remotely organized and monitored microorganisms embedded in the connective tissue of the menisci.

As old Mrs. Grimbley rolled down the baking aisle with hovering shopping cart in tow.  As she grabbed a bag of Z! for the tasty stew she would prepare later that day for her beloved grandson Burton. As her retinal ischemia worsened.  As the polyethylene in her hip eroded.  As she smiled a neighborly smile at the good-natured grocery clerk.

Posted October 28, 2013 by Andrew in Science Fiction

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Atmospheric Neurology   Leave a comment

“Your exterior world reflects your neuro-nature.  Listen to it, as the natural course of events and flow of health will follow.”  Professor Vash spoke drawlingly with intellectual acuity.  An ancient, lucid cowboy.

The classroom, as the professor packed pencil, pad and chalk (he kept his own chalk) into a sturdy black leather case, emptied as a paused and phasing slow mush.

A slight figure approached Vash’s desk.

The professor briefly looked up at this young man, then continued gathering his belongings.

The student spoke in a guileless tone. “Professor? I was wondering…what does this mean?”

He unbuttoned his shirt’s right cuff and rolled up the sleeve. Vash glanced up to squint at the young man, a rather odd-looking specimen: pale, fearless yet frightened simultaneously…jejune.

The skin along the underside of the young man’s forearm was held together with a stitching of at least twenty metallic staples.

Professor Vash was not feeling especially compassionate. He mumbled, “You injure yourself?” clicking the briefcase shut and turning to leave.

“It is difficult to say. Just a moment,” said the student.

He removed one staple, then another, then another, randomly, until all that remained was a rather well-healed seam along the arm.

No blood emanated from the opening.

Something, a tin-like sensation, in the professor’s inner ear started to vibrate.

From the seam along the arm rose a metal rod which broke from the elbow and remained fixed to a hinge at the wrist.

From the pit of his stomach Vash felt a sudden urge to flee, but could not, feet planted, eyes fixed.

Like an axle the metal rod spun as it continued to rise out of the arm.

The tense vibrating sensation in the old man’s ear grew to a tight clamping of the eardrum, a snare drawn across his frontal lobe. The professor convulsed, violently bowing before the student.

“My question is this,” said the strange young man, emotionless. “What is meant by neuro-nature?”

The professor dropped to his knees, eyes bulging, hoarsely–vainly–trying to cry out. He clapped his hands to the side of his head.

As he grasped at the desk in front of him the briefcase came crashing to the floor, paper and pens flying about.

Vash clutched his head, throat, chest, and gradually froze while staring cataleptically across the floor. His eyes followed a broken bit of chalk rolling over to the young man’s foot. The professor, unable to breathe, feebly reached toward the towering, somehow familiar figure.

The young man stepped forward onto the rolling piece of chalk, stopping it but not crushing it, “And is it anything like electro-nature?”

Posted October 19, 2013 by Andrew in Science Fiction

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Colonians, Planet 7   Leave a comment

The Colonians occupied Planet 7.  Their goal was simple: destroy any and all visitors from the second moon Nebulaeus.  A farming community comprising visitors from Nebulaeus had arisen 14,000 half-days previous to construction of a Colonian global perimeter which essentially acted as a bug zapper.  In its very brief incarnation this farming community attempted to grow fruit trees in the compound soil elder Colonians used as clay for idols. So the newly migrated visitors were gathered up and exterminated and burned.  Their ashes, it was discovered, provided a fine opiate. The opiate was replicated chemically and that substance came to be a common ingredient in many Colonian commercial foods and beverages. The truth was buried.  Long before.  Beneath the atmosphere.

Posted October 18, 2013 by Andrew in Science Fiction

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Atomic Shield   Leave a comment

A light rain fell as Kipp Putlock ran through Beasely Park clutching the device.  He did not know the physics of the thing, only that it was imperative to set it off in the center of the park immediately.

Federal and local police had been notified an hour earlier that a sixty-megaton nuclear bomb was under the control of foreign agents. Orders were to apprehend or kill anyone suspicious.

Shortly after this order was broadcast, officer G.C. Moneywell of Metro Police spotted Kipp scrambling through the dark unlit park, racing through a playground and over an iron-wrought fence into the open lawns of Beasely West.

“Stop!” shouted Moneywell, discerning through the dark a large metal object, like a small, heavier antique phonograph player. “Stop or I will shoot you.”

“No time!”  Kipp continued running.  He slid through the wet grass, slipped, fell.  It was as good a place as any.  “Please don’t shoot!” He scratched at an electronic panel on the device’s side.

Moneywell jogged closer to Kipp while radioing in to dispatch to request instructions. 

He stood twenty feet from the prostrate figure fiddling with the machine and drew his service pistol. He took aim.  “I repeat, I will shoot.”

Kipp cried, “No!” He continued fumbling to open the electronic panel of the device, wiping rain and tears from his face.

Moneywell, paused, squinted, then fired once into Kipp’s leg. Kipp screamed in agony, paused, then continued working, struggling to focus.

Moneywell’s radio squawked. Dispatch. The bomb had been located one thousand yards west of the Wycliffe Towers. It could not be disarmed.  They would die.

Whatever, whomever, officer Moneywell had encountered was not the threat.

“Please don’t shoot me again,” Kipp spoke more quietly now, wiping his eyes and nose with his shirtsleeve.

Officer Moneywell holstered the pistol and walked closer.  “What are you doing?” he asked.

Kipp wiped the unnaturally bright red hair from his eyes.

“I’m not quite sure.  I just know I have to turn it on.  It’s a shield.  Do you have a knife?”  Kipp looked up.

Moneywell frowned.  “Let me see your leg.”

“No time,” Kipp said. “Do you have a knife?!”

Moneywell took a breath and looked around, pausing, then unclipped his automatic blade and tossed it over. What did it matter anyway, he thought. “Just press that button on–”

“Crap!”  Kipp screamed as the blade dug into his wrist.  “Stupid!”

“Let me see,” said Moneywell.  He knelt by Kipp to see the wound.

“No time.  No time.”  Bleeding, Kipp pulled the knife from his flesh. He pried off a corner from the stubborn electronic panel of the device. Briefly pausing to gaze upward…the light rain.  His arm, pants leg, the ground, were saturated with blood.  “Stand back.”

Moneywell walked backwards slowly. 

Kipp dug with the index finger of his good hand behind the electronic panel and searched blindly for a moment.

He glanced up at the man in blue.  “I don’t have a clue what I’m doing–ah there…”

Kipp felt a small wire completing the circuit.  “Here goes nothing.”  He yanked out the far end of the wire and touched it to the underside of the nickel roof plate.

The sky flashed.  Was it the bomb?  No.  A large dome, larger than the metropolis itself, flickered on and off quickly, like a florescent light.

The strobe increased until the light of the dome held.  The city was enshrouded with a shield at least three miles in diameter, somehow bright and pale at the same time.

Kipp rested his chin on his chest.

“Did you…?” said officer Moneywell, turning to the young man.

Kipp’s eyes were closed.

An explosion. 

Moneywell looked up.

From behind the array of apartment complexes and skyscrapers an amplification of the dome’s light, which did not penetrate the dome itself.  Then a rising mushroom cloud further away.

“It’s hit,” said Moneywell.

“It’s the largest ever created, designed in Norway in 2017.  That’s what they said.”  Kipp lay down, his skin paler.  “We’re fortunate.”

Moneywell watched as the far halves of the Wycliffe buildings collapsed and as the near sides remained entact, as other structures along the periphery of the dome exploded, caught fire, as the rest of the city remained. As the dome held.

The light rain ceased. Moneywell looked over to the device, to Kipp, inert on the grass in a puddle of reddening mud.

“We’re fortunate.” echoed the officer.

Posted October 12, 2013 by Andrew in Science Fiction

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Intercranial Pressure   Leave a comment

He was alive, to be sure, but since the age of fourteen Jackson Hedgehog felt as if he were shrouded in plastic wrap, unable to breathe consciousnessness, mostly aware of his surroundings but only barely there.

Posted October 10, 2013 by Andrew in Science Fiction

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