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

 

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No Flash Fiction, Just Sadness

carrie-new-hi-res

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

 

 

 

 

“Friday” Flash Science Fiction #3 – Dawn

Dawn

Sunrise. Earthrise. I guess it depends on your point of view.

Courtesy of NASA.

From space, the sunrise is spectacular. An arc of glowing light strikes the curve of the planet and rolls along, driving away the darkness in its path. Of course, that’s not how it works – the sun’s light is fixed and the Earth spins through it. But why let facts ruin a lovely image?

I stared out the porthole, dreading the day to come. My class had finally hit a point where we were deemed capable of handling A5 tasks with minimal supervision, and we’d receive our work assignments today.

Along with the other tenthers, I’d spent time working in nearly every section of the station – robotics, astromech, waste management, life support, maintenance, eco support, freight ops, lift ops, medical, and recycling. Contracted techs and their families were never allowed into the command center – WalCorp claimed it was a security problem, but I think it was to keep us from finding out that we’d never go home to Earth.

That’s a funny phrase: “home” to Earth. I was only 2 when my parents signed up for this. They lifted us within months, and I don’t remember anything about the surface. How can I call it home when I don’t remember anything about it?

No control room for us; no radar, no administration, no flight ops, no communication with the surface. We existed in a little bubble and serviced the great machine in which we lived – the hum from the constantly running lift seemed to vibrate through every metal surface. I even thought I could feel it when I curled up in my bunk, but my mother told me I was imagining it.

The grades below us, mostly sevenths and eighths, had to supervise the younger children and clean the living quarters. Sometimes they helped with other things, like harvesting in eco, but they mostly took care of the cleaning. I didn’t miss that; I preferred digging into the mechanics of the servo arms to fix them.

I loved the sight of Earth from my private window, but even that couldn’t soothe me while I waited to find out where I’d be assigned for the next two years. Our classes would continue until we were 20, but we’d have to work an increasing number of hours along with our studies. I don’t mind the studying, but I do mind having to give up any semblance of privacy and free time for something I didn’t agree to. I love my parents…but right now, I hate them for bringing me here.

Anything but recycling; anything but medical. I can’t stand it when they bring in people who got hurt loading or unloading the lift. It takes 22 hours for it to climb or descend, so there’s a two-hour window to unload and then load it with whatever’s going back to the surface. The lift is tethered in the center of the station where there’s no gravity – or maybe I should say the station rotates around the spot where the lift is linked. I guess it depends on your point of view.

I’ll know in five minutes. That was my thought then, and I remember it clearly even though it’s been nearly 10 years since my last few days on Proteus Station.

 

Friday Flash Science Fiction #2 – “Yuri’s World”

“Yuri’s World”

"Yuri's World", courtesy of NASA

I’m surprised this viewport doesn’t have a permanent imprint of my nose on it.

Every spare moment, what few I’m given, I’m here – staring down at lights on a world I don’t know. Our teachers won’t talk about it much, other than to say that the corporation our parents work for is down there. They know no one’s ever been sent Earthside, no matter what WalCom promises.

I know it too – I hacked the system to check. That’ll get me spaced if they find out and they’ll make up some story about me, just like they did for Eran. She’s the one who told me that no one’s ever been sent back to Earth; she told me to check it out for myself, and she was gone the next day. We got a message saying she’d been sent Earthside for further training in chemical and fluid dynamics, but they didn’t cover their tracks very well this time. The shuttles that left around her supposed departure window were strictly cargo or outbound to Luna, and the lift was on its way up.

I wish I could have said goodbye. I wish I didn’t know that I could be next.

My family contracted as technicians to help finish WalCom’s perma-link station, with an option to go Earthside once construction was finished. There’s always an excuse, though, for why we can’t go back. Not enough space in the lift, too many paying commercial customers, blah blah blah. But they aren’t going to let us go back – they’ve got us here, why should they pay to lift more techs into space?

The stars in my night sky are the lights of Earth.

I will never reach them.

 

 

©2012 Christine Clukey Reece

Flash Science Fiction Week 1: Countdown

Countdown

“Time?”

“Five minutes, sir.”

Tanaka nearly stopped breathing as the wires slipped through his now-sweaty fingers for the third time. Time. I don’t have time to panic, he reminded himself as he resorted the radar console’s wires into the correct sequence. His tech assistant wedged himself under the console to hold the wires into place, freeing Tanaka’s hands to begin connecting the system. He could hear the captain’s voice as she directed two other officers through the calculations that would determine their current-but-unknown distance from the star they were surveying, trying to establish how much time they had to rewire the radar console before slipping far enough into the star’s gravity well that the engines couldn’t pull them away from it.

The solar flare had stunned everyone on the command deck with its brilliance and extent. Not an unknown or unexpected phenomenon, but very different in signature and strength…and even more hazardous as this star’s unusual radiation pulse neatly evaded part of the ship’s shielding. The pulse had fried several integral systems, but most critical was the ship’s radar. They’d been flying between an inner planet and one of its small moons, and they couldn’t risk changing directions without knowing the positions of the star and its orbitals.

Two wires connected; 58 to go.

Captain Vargas called to the communications officer from where she sat at the command console. “See if you can get any sound signature off the star or its orbitals, and try to gauge distance. Our bearing was unchanged; speed was diminished by 100kps, and the star still should be directly ahead with the planet to starboard and the moon on our port side. Pearson, still waiting on the mass of that moon and the speed of its orbit.”

The tech assistant called out for a time check; another minute had elapsed since losing radar capabilities. Ten wires down; 50 to go. Tanaka could feel the deck vibrating beneath him as the crew responded to the various alerts, their feet and ministrations acting as drumsticks on the ship’s percussive surfaces. Fourteen wires down; 46 to go.

Intermittent bursts of static came from the communications console as Captain Vargas and Lieutenant Pearson continued to work out the position of the moon and Tanaka made the next few connections. “Captain, solar gravity has increased our speed by 70kps!” he heard Eliott call out, and Tanaka mentally cursed the engineer for bringing so much homebrew to his birthday lunch.

Twenty-one down; 39 to go.

©2012 Christine Clukey Reece

52-week Flash Science Fiction Challenge

Ever wonder how to get started on a story? Do you just sit there staring at a blank page or a blank word document with no idea how to fill all that space?

It’s a common problem for writers. Sometimes the words pour out so quickly that your fingers can’t keep up, and other times you feel as though you’d be more productive if you just slammed your hands in a drawer every two minutes. If you’re fed up with that feeling, here’s a suggestion for you: try out my 52-week flash science fiction challenge.

For this challenge, you start with a prompt. Go raid NASA’s archive or another source with tons of pictures or illustrations of objects in space, or use someone’s idea of a space ship or planetary environment as your jump point (as long as you remember to credit their picture). That picture sets your universe – look at it for a few minutes, study any individual features within the picture, and then start writing about what you see.

You can write this in any perspective: first, second, or third. You can write your own observations; you can create a character in your head and explain why that character is seeing this image, or you can give some background on why that image is important. You could use the image as a flashback from someone’s career in a space fleet. You could also simply use it as what someone sees through a telescope and dreams of visiting in the future. Whatever story line you choose to follow, write between 400 and 1,000 words and stop. You’re done!

Once you’ve hit that finish line, set your story aside for at least a couple of days before you go back to review it. See what works, what doesn’t, and whether there’s a clear plot line; if there’s no clear plot, at least make sure the story reflects some clear visual imagery. Congratulations! You’ve created a short story from a visual prompt, and hopefully it helped inspire your creative mind to get working on your other writing projects.

My goal is to do this once a week for an entire year, and I’ll post my stories here. I’ll also post the image I use as a start point or link to the site where you can find it. I hope you’ll try this out with me and use the visual prompt idea as a way to get those words flowing when you wind up with verbal constipation.

Cheers!