Spinning to Oblivion

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Image courtesy of NASA

The acrid tang of blood was a pleasant change from the burnt smell wafting from the air reconditioners, Remy decided. He watched in distant fascination as drop after drop swirled away from his arms and body and spun across the compartment. Or was he the one spinning, he wondered, and the blood merely floated quietly after leaving him?

Drop by drop, his strength was ebbing away. He had hoped that the voices would get quieter as he got weaker, but the screaming seemed to be growing louder. At first only Lerin was yelling at him, but now Lerin was floating lifelessly beside the station’s solar-powered stabilizing array. Why had he gone out there? Hadn’t Remy warned him he didn’t have enough oxygen to be Outside for long?

Several blood droplets spun together, merging briefly into a larger globule before smashing into his left eye. Or had he smashed into it? Remy felt a wave of nausea sweep up as he caught a brief glimpse of Earth whirling repeatedly past the viewport.

The screaming seemed to be growing louder again, and this time there were more voices. A few were old friends inside his head, companions earned during months of solitary training, but the others were a mix of male and female voices he didn’t know. They were coming from all around him now.

“Remy, you need to get to the auxiliary panel!” shouted one angry voice. “You need to get the rotation under control now that the fire’s out. See if Lerin…”

He wanted to tell the voices to stop reminding him about Lerin. Lerin had gone Outside to try to save them, he reminded himself, and now he was gone. Another lurch brought him spinning around faster. His leg was tethered to a control panel that appeared to have been ripped free and was ricocheting around the module.

“Remy, where is Commander Tindal?”

Yes, there had been three of them. Three to work together, three to argue. Three to love. Three to fight.

“Remy, we can’t help you if you won’t talk to us!”

Remy felt a strange tug against his leg, rousing briefly to catch sight of a chunk of databoard guts that had smashed into him. A rising shriek drew his attention back towards the auxiliary control panel now being systematically and enthusiastically dismantled by the mission leader. Lerin’s knife drifted past his eyes.

“STOP TELLING ME WHAT TO DO.”

“But…you…made…us…”

Made us do it, Remy wanted to say, but his strength had ebbed away in the crazy dance of red drifting and careening around the compartment. A brief glimpse of Lerin’s suited body brought him comfort as he drifted towards oblivion. At least he wouldn’t be alone.

Copyright 2017 by Christine Clukey Reece

 

 

 

Flash Fiction Friday: Impact

Image courtesy of NASA

Image courtesy of NASA

Impact

Thermafrag bombs detonated across the surface of Minerva IV like bugs splattering across a windshield. They were unlikely to hit anything, the captain knew, but might shake up the mutineers enough that they’d make a run for it.

Minverva IV hung against the silhouette of its gas giant parent, oblivious to the misfortunes of its surface. The moon had been mined and abandoned by one conglomerate or another over centuries, and now the crew members who’d attempted to murder him were hiding in the extensive network of tunnels below.

A vagrant muscle twitched in his jaw as the chilling sound of escaping air replayed in his memory. They’d told him that they’d found evidence of sabotage along the hull, and he’d fallen into their trap — suited up and headed Out to see it for himself. Good thing for him that he never went Outside without a flexoseal kit strapped on at his waist. Bad thing for them that there was more than one way back Inside the Elloran Cee.

He surveyed the two remaining members of the bridge crew, their facial scars standing out in stark relief under the glare of instrumentation lights. They were fine officers, he thought, able to withstand any amount of physical punishment in the performance of their duties. His fingers curled around the short whip at his waist, anticipating their next training session.

 

Copyright 2017, Christine Clukey Reece

 

A Happy and Kind Recommendation

Image found on Daily Kitten

Image found on Daily Kitten

I’ve worked with Digital Fiction Pub (DFP) as an editor for some time now and have thoroughly enjoyed my experience with the company and the authors they publish. One of my favorite experiences was helping to select stories for and edit the original Digital Science Fiction anthologies…most especially a happy little story called “The Night We Flushed the Old Town” by Martin L. Shoemaker, in Therefore I Am (Digital Science Fiction anthology #2).

Martin posted a great tribute to Michael Wills, the gentle genius behind DFP, and the final paragraph of the post included a kind reflection on me as his editor. Martin’s a great writer (and you should definitely check out his other works, especially “Today I Am Paul”), and I’m grateful to be thought of so kindly. It takes a special kind of focus to help an author fine-tune their fiction, and I love having the opportunity to do it.

At present, DFP is closed for submissions (and has been focusing on reprints), but keep checking the site if you have any science fiction, fantasy, or horror short stories you’d like to share! Stories under 3,500 words in all three genres fit the “Quickfic” category, and these stories are posted on the DFP website as well as turned into Quickfic anthologies. Michael selected one of my stories to lead the way in the first Quickfic anthology, and I’m hoping to submit more of my own work at some point.

In the meantime…write more!

No Flash Fiction, Just Sadness

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I’d intended to restart my #FlashFictionFriday posts as of today, but I’m overwhelmed by the news about Carrie Fisher. I’m not sure if the press’s “stable condition” is trying to back off the alarmism of the first posts about her heart attack, but requiring half an hour of CPR doesn’t bode well.

article-1088513-0289ce2d000005dc-747_468x468She’s more than just another actress to me and millions
of women around the world. Back in the 1970s, her Princess Leia introduced us to a woman who led others, made plans of her own, tossed around witty, sarcastic commentary, and picked up a laser pistol to defend herself and others. She was fully human and strong as hell, and Carrie was amazing in the role.

Her depiction of Leia taught us we could be anything, just like the boys could be. She also showed us we could dress up and be beautiful AND dress down and engage in combat. Because women can be fully competent as people, not just as decorative window dressing.

In her personal life, she has faced down many demons and come out stronger than ever and full of life. Postcards from the Edge, both her book and her screenplay, showcase what she fought through. And then she came back to us in the form of General Leia in Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens, showing us that women could get older and still matter — both on screen and off.

May the Force be with her and us all, and I hope her medical team is able to help her. I’ll be picking up her latest book, The Princess Diarist, as soon as I can.

And 2016: we hate you. So much. That may make me a Sith tonight, but care not, I do.

 

The Numbers

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Occator Crater on Ceres, courtesy of NASA

“Glaring at the display isn’t going to change the numbers.”

The surveyor settled back into his seat, struggling not to turn his glare on the pilot of the tiny survey vehicle. She was bringing them down inside Occator Crater, inching down slowly to keep from kicking up any planetary debris.

“This thing has already swallowed us,” he muttered. The jagged walls of the crater already rose up out of view, and they hadn’t landed yet.

“You’re not claustrophobic, are you? Bad time for something like that to come up,” the pilot replied, slowing descent so much that the craft seemed to hover in place. “Don’t worry. The numbers never really give a good idea what something will look like, we’ll touch down in a minute.”

Tel shrugged, but didn’t continue distracting Lyra’s attention. He knew life was circumscribed by numbers. They told him when to wake up, when to sleep, how long to sleep, how much to consume…and they controlled his work of determining whether mineral deposits were worth the expense of mining. They also controlled the pilot’s decisions related to speed, angle of descent, and where to land.

He felt the barest shudder as the survey vessel touched down. A small puff of dust welcomed them to the barren dwarf planet. Idly wondering how many specks of material they’d disturbed, he punched the controls for the survey ‘droid. Its operating ID flashed briefly on the screen, followed by its operating condition. All systems go.

“Okay, we’re good to begin,” Lyra told him as she locked down the board. “Be mindful of the gravity. If you do anything fast with the ‘droid or ramp, we might get knocked around a bit.”

“I know, gravity here’s less than half that of the Moon,” he replied absently, his attention focused on the panel. They were settled down about 300 meters from the shining deposits in the crater, and he was eager to begin his assessment of the material. The chemical analysis showed it was a type of salt, but it was like nothing on Earth.

They felt a stronger shudder as he lowered the aft ramp so the ‘droid could begin its survey. The heavy machine didn’t know it yet, but the numbers dictated that it was on a one-way mission. Gravity meant that heavy machinery would have an easier time staying on the surface, but limited fuel space meant that all extraneous weight had to be left behind if they were to lift off and return to the mining ship.

It’s always about the numbers, Tel thought as he watched the heavy treads of the mining ‘droid raising a haze that obscured the bright patches beyond it. The machine lumbered along, its slow pace geared to its weight and the uneven surface inside the impact crater.

“How much do you think is out there?” Lyra asked as she started laying in the instructions that would return them to the mining ship.

Tel shrugged. “I wasn’t able to get a direct measurement of how deep the deposits are, so it’s impossible to estimate.”

Two alarms went off simultaneously as Tel watched the ‘droid begin to sink into the edges of the white deposits.

Lyra looked over as Tel desperately began recall measures, trying to edge the ‘droid back towards the ship, sardonically asking, “Didn’t you run the numbers on what would happen to a machine that heavy if there wasn’t solid rock below the deposit zone?”.

“There’s no way. This is an ice world, the surface is solid under that…”

The ‘droid disappeared from sight. Lyra and Tel stared at where it had been, then looked at each other. “Are you still reading anything from it?” she asked.

“Yes, it’s fully online, just not…wait. Its descent stopped. According to the sensors, there’s solid metal under it.”

“There’s what?”

“Solid metal.” Perplexed, Tel refreshed the data feeds. “Not ore. A solid surface, seems to be an alloy of some sort. There’s no way manufactured material can be here…” His voice trailed off as he saw Lyra begin to shake her head.

“The survey data showed that this crater has gone undisturbed for about three million years,” she pointed out. “So…it’s not human. Now what?”

“Now this will either make or break my career,” he sighed. “We’ll either go down in history as the surveyors who found the first alien object, or I’ll just be known as the engineer who couldn’t get the numbers right.”

© Copyright 2016 Christine Clukey Reece

 

 

 

 

Flash Fiction: Space Ghosting

I flitted from one screen to another, not certain which moon to tackle first. Sheba and Herakles whizzed around their gas giant parent, their orbits traced out faintly against the stark background of space.

Their orbits overlapped, but their previous speeds had kept them distant enough from one another that they hadn’t collided. Until now. Sheba had taken a hit from a massive asteroid not long ago – enough to slow it and let Herakles begin overtaking it. The astrogation team told us the moons would collide within 42 hours.

Triton hovered menacingly above us, waiting to consume their remains. Its other moons seemed indifferent to the fate of their siblings.

The ghosting uplink let me control the monitor with a thought. I flicked the pod towards Herakles, aiming at the Vitrous mountains, the highest range on the moon. The moon’s surface was deserted – all that was left of the mining facilities that previously occupied its surface were heaps of scrap. All usable equipment and robotics were evacced when we received the alert on the incoming asteroid. Nix, we called it. It seemed appropriate.

From a comfortable stellar distance, the mining transit ship sent monitoring equipment back to observe the impending crash. Everything was automated; everything controlled from a distance by humans, who didn’t live long enough to make a trans-system trip. Months, years of planning…decades or centuries waiting for the massive ships to reach their destinations. Decades or centuries of patient work as we used their equipment to strip planets bare.

Our species had found a way to warp space for instantaneous communications, but had yet to defeat the speed of light. Perhaps one day we’d set foot on a surface outside our own solar system. For now, we ghosted through uplinks to control equipment at incomprehensible distances, and our robotic extensions mined and constructed human-habitable cities on multiple worlds. We’d already had homes we could use once we managed to launch ourselves beyond Sol’s grasp.

All this faded in my mind as I watched Sheba’s greenish irregular surface loom nearer, the monitor’s lens serving as my eye. I loathed this immaterial existence. No sense of touch, sound, or smell – I would never set foot on any surface beyond Saturn’s moons. Even these doomed moons had more substance than I.

Copyright 2013 – Christine Clukey Reece

Flash Science Fiction – “Patchwork”

Patchwork

“I thought the survey team said most of this planet was arable.”

African inland delta - surreal natural Medusan art.

With thanks to Commander Chris Hadfield aboard the ISS.

Commander Thaller frowned in concentration as she highlighted sections of the image. “We’d better hope it has potential for it, at least,” she muttered to her second-in-command. “Otherwise, we’ll get to come back and rescue these settlers and they’ll fight us every pico of the way.”

The Explorer-class vessel Delta Bonita was on hyperbolic transit through the system, following an arc that would aim it back toward  Pax Sector HQ. Thaller’s shuttle, the Foxtrot, had brought over the first load of settlers and their gear. The Dee-Bee‘s hyperbolic course meant limited time for them to either turn around or put everyone on the surface.

“All right, listen up!” she called out as she manoeuvred into the passenger compartment. “Here’s a new screencap of the surface near our intended landing zone. There’s a mix of land types across your chosen latitude – mostly river basin, desert, and rock. You’ve got two minutes to make the call on whether to start the landing process or turn around and try the next planet on the list.”

After handing the photo capture off to the settler’s leader, Arton, she headed toward the cargo area to double-check everything was ready to offload when they hit dirtside. The surface patchwork wouldn’t give the settlers much land to live on unless they chose to stay in flood zones, but these people were determined to found their own colony. She gave it 10-to-1 odds that they’d demand an immediate landing.

The would-be colonists hurriedly unstrapped and huddled together over the picture, their voices quiet but intent. The extent of the river basin area appeared liveable, but it looked like there were few arable zones and they were far distant from one another. Each area looked able to support a small group indefinitely, but not all of the settlers together. Not without the ability to travel easily between those zones. Arton looked at his wife, his thoughts evident on his face.

Thaller came back into the passenger area, resealing the door to the cargo bay. “What’s your choice, people? Drop or go?”

Arton came smoothly to his feet, gesturing with the screen cap. “Commander, this igneous rock appears able to bear the shuttle landings and takeoffs, and it’s close enough to the delta area that we won’t have much trouble ferrying gear over. We drop.”

She nodded, studying the faces of the other settlers. They looked excited and apprehensive, but not terribly concerned about the dangers inherent in the planet’s topography. It was their problem now. “Very well, get strapped back in and we’ll pass along the alert to the other shuttle crews. We’ll be on the ground in about 15 minutes.”

Thaller managed not to shake her head in disdain as she strapped back into the pilot’s seat. Every batch of settlers thought they were unique and capable, but their shared hatred of the United Planets government kept them from properly evaluating planetary hazards. She gave it three years, tops, before they’d call for rescue…and she hoped the UP placed a high price on that service.

Dee-Bee, this is the Foxtrot. We are go for drop. Out.”

Copyright 2013 – Christine Clukey Reece