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

 

 

 

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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.

 

Need Ideas for Alien Creatures?

If you need ideas for alien critters, look no further than Antarctica. Well, under Antarctica. Photo courtesy of footage provided by the Australian government, and the video linked above is worth checking out.

These structures are holding up under immense pressure and cold, even though they look lacy and delicate. If that’s possible on Earth, then what might grow on other celestial bodies with oceans under ice? What might grow in thick, soupy atmospheres?

The science on life forms is pretty limited by our current knowledge that limits it to carbon-based units. It’s entirely possible that everything in the Earth’s oceans is carbon-based, but maybe they’ll eventually find something that started from a different elemental unit.

All that aside, check out the colors and structures. Consider how those colors might be affected by the various elements present in atmospheres on other worlds. What structures would plant life need to flourish in a heavy sulphur-based atmosphere? Would they use photosynthesis? Would photosynthesis work if you altered the intake chemical? Instead of carbon dioxide, could plants process sulphur? If so, what would they emit?

I’m contemplating some large tree-like structures like this blue and white one, but I’m trying to fit it into the context of a new world. We’ll see how that goes.

 

Fun and Games in the ER

lfg0148xxSo. I missed last week’s #FlashFictionFriday thanks to an ER visit for a bad reaction to new medication. After days of feeling like a wrung-out dishrag run over by a tank, I’m almost back to (ab)normal.

I have nothing but appreciation for the doctor and nurses who talked me through the panic that accompanied feeling like my body was completely shutting down, even though it was the strangest ER setup I’ve ever seen. First, you go past a ‘reception’ area in the hallway, where you have to stand there to check in (I couldn’t). Next, you go into a waiting room to chill out until a triage nurse can evaluate you. Then, you finish dealing with registration at yet another reception counter (but with chairs there), and finally, you get shuffled off to the “yellow” or “green” ER area based on your symptoms.

They wheeled me off to “green” (I was shaking uncontrollably and my legs had given out), which was kinda nice in that it meant my reaction probably wasn’t life-threatening. They parked me in front of the nurses’ station, though, so they could keep an eye on me while waiting for an exam area to become available. They had limited exam cubicles, so they’d set up a couple of ‘waiting’ areas within the ER where more mobile people had to sit and wait after being examined. A bunch of people in those areas had IVs, which seemed a bit odd. If someone is in the ER and needs an IV, it seems like it’d be a good idea to keep them as stationary as possible…but who knows.

My doctor was fantastic. She’d clearly seen this type of reaction before, which was both reassuring and disquieting, but she went through a few tests to make sure nothing else was happening. They dealt with treatment fairly quickly, kept me for a while to make sure that the reaction had passed and I’d be okay, and then sent me off with a different prescription. All in all, a strange but decent experience with Canadian healthcare.

Now that I’ve mostly recovered and caught up on my workload, I’ll get more posting and writing done. Current plan is to refresh my knowledge of Strunk & White’s Elements of Style so I can work on streamlining my writing. If you haven’t read this style book, I highly recommend it.

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