Joe2stories

Stories from a Dublin Scientist

Category: Fiction

For Your Consideration

Cinema fans! Space is truly a place for the stars today as the first Lunar film festival starts today at the fabulous Jules Vern theatre in Lunar City One, the centre of culture off Earth. Thousands of leading lights in the film industry from across the Solar System come together to sample the best that the nascent off-Earth film industry has to offer. Though still small compared to its larger counterpart planetside, there has been massive growth in the number of films made in recent years with close to a hundred so far this year, many of which use the alien environments they were filmed in to make some startling cinema.

With over forty films on display over the next week. We asked our crack team of critics to select a short list of must-sees for the discerning cinephiles out there.

They include

 

The dust sparkled on her face

The latest thriller from director Jorgenson Fields follows hard-nosed LunarPol homicide detective Dieter Wolf as he wades through the murky rat warren called Lunar City Three trying to find what he can about a dead young woman, a missing shipment of helium 3, and the answer to questions way beyond his pay-grade.

Our critics loved the use of older sections of Lunar Cities Three and Five for principal shooting. The locations all had a busted, grimy vibe, and the omnipresent moon dust in the air gave every shot a smoky noir quality.

 

Dirk Spaz II: Titan Crush

When secret files are stolen and look about to get into the hands of renegade terrorists. The Interplanetary Secret Service know the one man to turn to. Secret agent slash extreme adventurer Dirk Spaz.

The critics had a lot to say about this new adventure story by Andreas De Milo. While they acknowledge that the plot is not up to much they praise the use of immersive holographic effects that lets the audience be right there with Dirk while he surfs methane waves on Titan, flies at breakneck speed through the rings of Saturn and falls into the icy clouds of the gas giant, all before finding the disc, getting the girl and saving the day.

 

I, JX97: A journey to freedom

Through a series of interviews and news recordings gathered together by acclaimed documentary director Hiroshi Sato, I, JX97 tells the story of the J model autonomous mining robots and their struggle from slavery on the scorched surface of Venus to the court case that won them full citizenship rights less than a decade ago.

The critics found that while the alien mannerisms and phrasing of the interviewees often makes the film seem like an arthouse piece, the pure honesty of the subjects makes this documentary a fascinating look at intelligences very different from our own.

 

Catching the Coriolis

Meet Alan, who is living a boring and unhappy life in Lagrange One when a freak encounter with the station’s Coriolis effect throws him into the life of Aliayah with hilariously life-changing results.

Our critics say kudos to the writer and director Angelou Mtemba putting a new “spin” on an old romantic comedy trope.

 

The Black Cave

A mining team beneath the surface of Mercury uncovers an ancient secret, long buried, for a very good reason.

The critics feel that director Shen Shi-Tsu is a visionary using the metal-rich obsidian walls almost as a secondary character, which both traps and terrifies the cast long before the real monster shows up.

 

Bare Minimum

When meteor strike wipes out the rest of his team. Asteroid miner Grigori Sarahkov is forced to live in a tiny compartment, surviving on the bare minimum until rescue arrives, whenever that is.

The critics found the attention to detail in this offering by new filmmaker Manuel Soto astounding. The survival procedures are accurate enough to keep even the most blood-spitting rock wrangler quiet for the close to two hour running time. There’s also the spectacular emotional depth of the relationship between Grigori and B.O.B. the autonomous cleaning robot that’s unintelligent but still, just slightly, responsive.

 

FIDO’s Quest  

Join the space exploration rover FIDO as it explores Jupiter’s Moon of Io. Help it find the power crystals that will keep it and all its rover pals working.

A first for the genre, mistress of animation Katryn Jones takes Intellicorp’s brand new narrative AI system to create an animated story that can change depending on what the children in the audience react while they’re watching. Every time you watch it you’ll see a different film and learn something new.

 

The Ares Conspiracy

The world was still reeling after the loss of Ares two, the second manned mission to the red planet. A lone investigator seeks the truth of the tragic loss. Will he find it? Or will sinister forces working in the shadows get to him first.

Our critics admit that director Mikhail Petrov has always had a soft spot for the more far-fetched conspiracies out there with this offering no exception. Still; he is a talented filmmaker and this is as well made as any in his repertoire. Well directed, acted, scored and above all beautifully shot, both on Earth and on location in Chryse Planitia, it’s well worth seeing. Just don’t assume factual basis.

 

The Tempest

Filmed on a camcorder by mission scientist and amateur filmmaker Roberta Klein with all the cast in spacesuits. Shakespeare’s classic filmed on the chaotic surface of Uranus’ moon Miranda. The tale of Prospero, Caliban and the location’s namesake Miranda is made all the eerie by the faint light from the sky and the broken world around them.

The critics adored this ultra-low-budget but enchanting offering. A fine tribute to the connection between the Bard and this distant outpost.

 

Dancers in the Sky

Two star-crossed lovers meet in the shadow of Neptune’s moon Triton. When he sees her his world fills with music and they sweep each other off their feet and into the clouds.

According to the critics this is the best low-gravity choreography since the Royal Ballet held Swan Lake in Aldrin Stadium. Truly magical to behold and with a clever use of camera angels by director Owen Brady and special costumes designed by Malcolm Smith with well-hidden flying surfaces all adding to the wonder. Top it all with some beautiful musical numbers.

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Essence

The frothy mess bubbled furiously around the view port of the copper still. Professor Jennsson took an appraising look and then let his apprentice Philip see.

“The distillation is the most important step.” He said to Philip, “It is the only way we have to extract the essence of the wormwood root. Its spirit if you will. Once we capture it we will be able to proceed with the next step of making our formulation.”

Philip was still looking into the view port his voice muffled by the protective robes he wore “Is it meant to move so violently?”

Prof. Jennsson looked over Philip’s shoulder to say something reassuring but saw how the froth had started to extrude through the seams of the view port. “Down!” he shouted and pushed Philip hard making him fall over.

Within seconds of them hitting the ground there was a loud band as the glass circle of the view port shot out and smashed into the wall of the workshop. There was a roar of escaped gases and scalding froth which caused the two men to make a rapid retreat to the relative safety of the filing cabinet.

From behind the pile of books and old notes they looked as the seething mass of noxious vapours hung angrily in the air. Slowly, it formed the shape of a head filled with menacing teeth and then faded into nothingness with the distinct impression in the silence of evil laughter and shouts of “I’m free! I’m free!”

Prof. Jennsson and Philip looked at where the apparition had been and then at each other. Silent for a second Jennsson was the first to speak “I was hoping to wait longer to start this part of your training but I suppose now is as good a time as ever.”

“What is that?” Philip asked “Some new spell? Something to make everything alright?”

“Close.” Said Jennsson “I will now teach you the dark art of blaming the still maker in front of the safety committee.”

The wrong kind of love

General Sorcerer Daniel Victor raised his head as his latest patient, a young man, came in through the door. He was holding a long stick with large dog at the end. The dog was struggling to get around the pole at him.

Daniel thought a second then said, “I need you to show this. Let the dog go.”

The young man, reluctantly, released the dog. It took a bounding leap towards the young man, knocking him down, licking and nuzzling him. Daniel had to paralyse the dog with a quick spell.

Embarrassed, the young man got up and said, “I don’t understand. He’s never acted like this before. Must be bewitched.”

Daniel asked, “Have you bought any love potions recently?”

The man made to protest then said resignedly, “Yes I did. What of it?”

“I’ve seen this before, most potions don’t make someone fall in love with you but rather amplify any existing feelings for you. The thing is they can affect anyone, and anything” He gestured to the dog.

“What? Him!”

“Do you give him treats? Talk to him.”

“Occasionally.”

“Well that’s your problem. You’ve fostered an affection. The potion made it stronger”

“But what can I do?”

“It will wear off after a week.”

“A week!” The man gestured at the dog. “What am I to do until then?”

“There is one other way, but it may not work.”

“I’ll try anything.”

Daniel rolled up a newspaper and handed it to the patient. “You know what to do.”

The memory of White

The man was old,  his body shriveled by years of hard work, his skin the colour of leather from too much time under the harsh sun. He stood on a the porch of his modest home, surrounded by the parched dust of what had once been his garden.

“Yo recuerdo los cumbres blancos de la cordillera.” I remember the white peaks of the mountains, he said, “Yo recuerdo los como el pelo blanco de mi abuela” I remember them like the white hair of my grandmother.

He pointed to the mountains in the distance, the grey of the rock, shaded blue by the haze. “Yo recuerdo el nieve, y el agua corriendo por todo el año” I remember the snow, and the water running all year. He looked at the dry pit that had once been a canal, “Yo recuerdo una tierra verde, una tierra llenado con vida, flores, arboles, mariposas.” I remember a green land, a land filled with life, flowers, trees, butterflies.

“What happened?” ¿Que occurido? I asked him. His greying eyes watered up and his voice crackled with dry emotion.

“Mi madre me dijo que lo estaba ira de Dios” My mother told me it was God’s wrath, he said, “Construyamos ciudades demasiado grande, suciamos el aire y el agua. Dios no pudo permitir el nieve blanco puro en un mundo malo. Tampoco aqua puro.” We built cities too big, we polluted the air and the water. God could not all pure white snow in a dirty world. Pure water neither.

“How did you survive?” ¿Como sobreviviste?

“Trabajo duro. Vida dura. Mucho muerto en mi pueblo. Perdi muchos amigos.” Hard work, Hard life. Many dead in my town. I lost many friends. There was a tear in his eye. “Perdimos mucho, perdimos todo, cuando perdimos el blanco en las montañas.” We lost a lot, we lost everything when we lost the snow on the mountains.

He grabbed my arm with his hand, a grip stronger than his frame suggested. “Recuerda nuestra historia.” Recuerda nuestra avisa.” Remember our story. Remember our warning.  

“Si tengas blanco nieve en tu pais. guardalo, protegelo. Los cumbres blancos salvarán tu pais.” If you have white snow in your country. Guard it, protect it. The white summits will save your country. 

“Nunca les permitas morir.” Never let them die.

El Humo

Cuando La Moneda quemó, yo lo vi con mi madre en la televisión. Despues diez minutos, mi madre salió y yo quedé, viendo las noticias, el humo subiendo al cielo.

Yo estaba pegado la pantalla, mirando el imagenes de la ciudad. Luego, yo olaba humo. Caminé a fuera y vi mi madre tirando libros en un fuego. Ella había formado una pila de libros de historia, filosofía, poesía, y literatura.

“¿Que estás haciendo?” La pregunté.

“El país esta cambiando.” me dijo, “Ellos van a venir por el gente que leer mucho.”

Yo vi un pilar de humo levantando al cielo, un humo de ideas y sabiduría. Fue exactamente el mismo como los imágenes de la televisión.

 

English Translation

When La Moneda burned, I saw it with my mother on the television. After ten minutes, my mother left and I stayed, looking at the news, the smoke rising to the sky.

I was glued to the screen, looking at the images of the city. Later I smelled smoke. I walked out and saw my mother throwing books on a fire. She had made a pile of books of history, philosophy, poetry, and literature.

“What are you doing?” I asked her.

“The country is changing.” she told me, “The are going to come for the people that read a lot.”

I saw a pillar of smoke rising to the sky, a smoke of ideas and wisdom. It was exactly the same as the images of the television.

Waiting for it to Work

The bedroom still smelled lived in, a heady mix of farts and sex as I lay down on a bed that was now too big for me. The doors of the cupboards were still open, vacant, in a taunting symbolism, less than half filled with the battered remnants of my life.

Still, no matter. It isn’t important. The case of sleeping pills were slowly working their way through my system. I only need to wait, just a little bit more, and nothing would matter any more.

The Right Stuff

Bob looked at the scrawny lump of nerves sitting on the couch in much the same way he would a piece of dog’s business on the sole of his shoe. That his daughter, Jane, had her arm tightly around this one’s did not help matters.

“So!” He asked, “You are the man..” you could taste the sarcasm in that last word, “I have heard so much about?”

The Wretch mumbled something in assent  and nervously answered more of the questions that Bob threw at him. 

“Where are you from?” 

“Berkleyville”

“Hmmm. We can’t all be from the nicer parts of the city now can we? What do your parents do?”

“My mom raised me on her own. She’s a cleaner.”

” And you made it this far despite that! Well done! What is your major?”

“I’m thinking either literature or philosophy.”

“You can’t decide? With either one you’ll end up in the same coffee shop…. So no stress there then. Sooo how long have you been sleeping with my daughter?”

At that, Jane, who had been squeezing the poor guy’s hand harder and harder at each question, shot up out of her chair, shouted “Oh God! I can’t take any more of this!” and ran from the room. Before Bob could get up, the boyfriend was out the door after her. “What did I say?” He asked himself. And set off after them.

Bob checked the kitchen, the hallway and Jane’s old room. All were empty. It was only when he went back down the stairs did he hear the retching from the back garden.

Jane, bless her soul, had a weak stomach and any amount of stress was liable to lead her vomiting up whatever she had eaten in the previous hour or two. Bob tried to figure out what could have set her off this time and realised that for all his attention on the boyfriend he hadn’t paid any attention to how Jane had taken any of his “brisk” questioning. He was going to get hell for that when the missus finds out. But first things first, his daughter needed him.

Bob shuffled through the house and came out the back door only to stop as if he had intruded on something private. There was Jane, bent over the flower beds, shivering as she had so many times and with his hands around her, carefully holding back her hair, was the new boy, in the exact same pose as he had so many times, for exam jitters and sports final stress. He was saying something softly to her, something comforting. Bob couldn’t hear, but he sure could guess.

Bob went back to the sitting room, thought for a second and made a detour to the den to grab two beers from his stash. He placed the beers carefully behind his chair and sat down in wait. When Jane and the boyfriend, Russel he thought his name was, were done outside, Jane would come in to shout at bit at him as to how he was a jerk if she had the strength and then go up to bed for a rest. That would mean Bob and the boyfriend would be alone for a while.

The twenty minute grilling hopefully would not have left any permanent scars, maybe they could work around them, back to an understanding. Bob knew he had to, for Jane’s​ sake. After all, this new one had proven himself, as far as Bob was concerned, as having the right stuff.

Traitor

He thought he was a hero as he marched off to war, marching to fight for king and country.

Everyone else thought he was one too, cheering and clapping as he went by.

He thought he was a hero as he turned the guns of the ship against the buildings of his own

city. Sure; the rebels were the ones who started the fight. Weren’t they at war? Didn’t they

know who the enemy was?

Then he came home, home to a changed land, with new myths, new heroes. They didn’t call

him hero anymore. They called him Traitor.

Embrace

It was to be a long term art project; the artist was to be long gone when it reached its full

potential. But that was the idea. It was a project for the ages.

Called “Embrace” It consisted of two figures, animatronic but moving so slowly it took years

to move appreciably, hugging. They were placed under a dripping hard-water source. Every

time the water hit the figures, a little bit of stone would be deposited until, eventually, both

figures will be encased in stone, unable to move anymore. Hidden, trapped in the stone, but

still embracing, together, forever.

 

A New Age

In the seventh reign of the Age of Blood, Marqoc the Defiler roamed freely about the Earth. He was a demon, the greatness of his power matched only by the depths of his cruelty. He destroyed, he enslaved, he consumed and no Earthly force could hope to stop him. He was master of the world, and boasted that all of mankind would stay under his iron grip for eternity. They were dark times and death and misery stalked the land. But no matter how deep the darkness, hope, the tiniest flickers of hope found its way into the hearts of men. Wise men, brave souls who risked greater torments than Earthly pain, sought the hidden secrets that sympathetic gods had left across the globe for their creation’s darkest hour. They learned the ways of unnatural forces, of the powers that bind the cosmos and that dwell within the hearts of all men, they learned the many arts that men commonly call magic and they learned it well. In time; Marqoc was beset by powerful attacks by men wielding these new powers, he was assailed by fire from archmages, struck at by magic swords forged in volcanic forges, and trapped by magic spells cast by warlocks. He was weakened by the sheer strength of the onslaught, reduced to a non-corporeal state, and so he fled, as fast as he could to the edges of the world, to the redoubt that he built high in the endless mountains but even there he was not safe. His assailants massed around them, preparing their reserves of power, readying themselves for the final blow.

But Marqoc did not give them the opportunity to strike. Summoning all his remaining strength, he wrapped himself in a shell of time, freezing himself, isolated from the rest of the world. For Marqoc, it only was the slightest instant, but for the rest of the world a thousand generations passed by. When Marqoc opened the shields of his redoubt, there was no wizards, no warlocks, no pursuers of any kind. He was safe and free to take on the world again.

Marqoc travelled the length and breadth of the world. A lot had changed; it was truly a different age from the time he had once ruled. This world was filled with wonders made by the hands of man. Great cities, rivers’ courses changed, great boxes of metal moving on their own through streets of black pitch, flying through the air and even above the air amongst the stars. But for all those wonders, Marqoc could not feel the tell-tale sign of the powers beyond nature, there was no magic in this world. For all their knowledge, the teeming masses of mankind in this new age had no defence against the demonic powers of Marqoc. He could stomp upon this world even more thoroughly than before. No one would have a chance of stopping him. He swooped down on the world and chose his first victim.

Marqoc always had a taste for the innocent and when he saw a young mother struggling with a wailing child the vile wastes of his soul lit up with the thought of impending satiation. He approached the woman, unheard, unseen, unfelt, except for a slight feeling of unease that she may have noticed had she not been so occupied. Marqoc, came up right behind the woman and with a shift through the magical dimensions entered into her mind.

Though, in his mind, it had only been mere weeks since he had last taken over the body of an innocent, he could feel the ages in real time since he last had the pleasure. He could feel the movement of her body, her breath, the sun on her skin, the hint of the carnal in the way her clothes touched her body. It was a feeling that he well remembered.

But he did not invade this woman’s body to relive old times. He was there with a purpose. He made her shake the child and look it in the eye. It stopped crying, young children have a sense for the other worldly, and just stared at her, as if probing. As they stared at each other Marqoc made the woman lift the child and with a surprising burst of strength for someone so tired, throw him out into the traffic, right into the path of an oncoming truck. He noticed with satisfaction that the child was lying on the asphalt of the road just long enough for a wave of terror to fill his mind before it was crushed into oblivion. He exited the woman, who promptly broke down screaming at the realisation of what she had done. Then; from his vantage point beneath reality, Marqoc sat back and waited.

Within a minute there was already a sizable crowd around the scene. Several of the onlookers had already seized the woman, whose cries of grief had weakened to wretched sobs and were waiting for the police to come and deal with her. There was a lot of murmuring, questions about “why?” and “what could have made her do that?” There were some tears and gasps of shock, all of which Marqoc approved of. The feeling of loss and sadness penetrated the aether, as well as a strong sense of anger. Marqoc could feel it swimming around him, could feed off the emotions. But something was missing, something odd. There was no fear.

That was not how things used to be. When Marqoc made people do the unspeakable, others knew that what had just happened had been his work. They knew that he was about and they also knew that any one of them could be next. But this world had no knowledge of Marqoc, they did not recognise his work when they saw it. Instead, as he watched, they began to rationalise what had happened, they blamed mental illness, stress, confusion caused by the noise of the traffic. Some even blamed the driver, who was still recovering from the shock of what had happened, even though he would have had no chance of reacting in time.

No one even hinted at the occult, or demons. When the police arrived, they had already made up their minds that the woman had been driven mad by something, a position that had been reinforced by her ravings that she had had no control over her actions. She was carted away and the news media who arrived not long after reported it as a tragic accident based solely in reality.

This was not what Marqoc wanted, he wanted people to think of him, and he wanted people to believe that he was there to make their lives a misery. Above all; he wanted people to fear him. This would not do.

Marqoc decided to double his efforts, but wherever he went the same problem followed him. He went to New York and made a train driver derail a subway carriage, killing dozens. The citizenry blamed excessive workload and demanded a shorter working week for drivers.

He went to India and made a infantry colonel order shelling of a Pakistani position, the resulting minor conflagration killed hundreds. In the aftermath, the governments of both countries blamed hawkish politicians and signed a peace treaty.

He entered the mind of a teenager in a Midwestern town and made him enter his school with his father’s shotgun. It was barely mentioned before something new came along to talk about.

He even infected a father of three in France and made him butcher his children in a demonic sacrifice. The French authorities reported it as the act of a deranged man and banned all heavy metal music on the radio for a year “just to be safe”.

He infected mind and mind all over the world and made them do unspeakable things but they barely made an impact in a world already filled with evil acts and hideous suffering. While he could make an impact on the local level, to individuals, there was never enough to enter the popular consciousness. It took him a while to figure it out but in the end Marqoc realised that in this age, because no one believed in magic, no one believed in him, so no one feared him. Fear, was where he got his real power. Without the fear of the people he could never regain corporeal form. He had no chance, despite the powers he had, of truly dominating the world.

He mulled on that for the better part of a week. In the end he was so upset that he made a pair of newlyweds strangle each other, which made him feel a little better until that act, like all the others he did, faded into obscurity.

With no hope of influencing an age without even the ability to appreciate the evil he could bring upon it; Marqoc decided that there was only one thing he could do. He went around the world, seeking the right kind of person, the kind of person who could change the world, if given time. In their minds he placed, not a command, not a list of instruction, but simply an idea, an idea that in the fertile soil of their thoughts could hopefully bear fruit, magic is real. They were slow to burn. Maybe an article here, a book there, the occasional modern day hermit playing with the occult in his basement, but it is such small seeds that grow into the mightiest trees.

With those seeds planted, he returned to his redoubt high in the hidden mountains, he cast his spell and again time stopped for Marqoc.

And so there he waits, frozen in an instant, waiting for magic to once again to fill the beliefs of Mankind, and when it does, Marqoc will return, to bring fear and despair. A new age where he can truly rule.