Joe2stories

Stories from a Dublin Scientist

Category: Science 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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First Contact

It was, as would be later said by some of the most celebrated historians in the galaxy, a perfect storm of bad circumstance. On the side of the humans, this latest species to arrive at sentience had reached the level of advanced telecommunications where falsehoods can spread as easily a truth but not the level of societal wisdom needed to deal with it safely. The Galactic representative was unfortunately from the Dra’Hel, an avian species tending towards fanatical literalism.

When the embassy ship arrived in orbit it flooded the airwaves with the standard galactic greeting. Translated into seventy of the most common local dialects, the message was the usual script of peace and love and offerings to help with some of the more pressing problems the locals seemed to be dealing with.

Within about seven minutes the contact team were shifting through the thousands of messages being sent both at the embassy ship and amongst the local political groups. Many were promising, offers of welcome, genuine discussions about how these new arrivals could help the onward development. However; almost as soon as the promising communications arose there was, in the darkest parts of the internet, some very disturbing signals.

The Illuminati knew about the alien threat. Agreed to sell your children as slaves. See the proof here. said one. Another was: The “Alien Ambassador” is a person in costume, special effects guru lays down the evidence here. There were thousands like that and they were growing at an exponential rate. As minutes turned to hours the official narratives which seemed so promising had been overshadowed by words of fear and distrust.

It all came to head when President Carl Wilson came on to address the World. He was a controversial figure. Formerly a shock jock and conspiracy theorist, he had entered the White House on the back of shocking rumours about his rival that had never been verified and was well-known for not thoroughly thinking through his statements. “These Aliens, who have come from so very, very far away” he said “We don’t know why…. Some people say good reasons. Other’s say bad reasons. I can only say that we in the United States would rather die than permit them free rein on our great nation.

Maybe the president should have picked his words better, maybe the translators on the embassy ship should have done more research about the context of particular human idioms. There could have been a whole host of things that may have been done better. All we know is that the Dra’Hel got the impression that the people of Earth wanted to die and figuring it takes all kinds to make a galaxy ordered the ships weapons to full.

There wasn’t much that could have been done after that.

 

Discovery

The sun was high and the desert wind blew dust continuously from the steppe into the shallow trench of the dig-site. They had been working there continuously for close to a month and already had uncovered a  veritable treasure trove of fossil life. There were massive herbivores, ferocious looking predators, a suite of bugs, crawling things and perfectly preserved plant life. A grad student was chipping away at the rocks at the edge of the trench, brushing away the powder as carefully as she could.

Unexpectedly, the grey-brown of the rock substrate gave way to a brilliant sheen of metal. She called everyone else over.

Metal? In rocks that formed millions of years ago? What could it mean? Some unusual geology? Evidence of some technology from the deep past? Something even more unexpected? Any one would be a noteworthy find.

With even more care than before she slowly chipped away the base rock from the find. It reached an edge, a straight edge, almost unheard of in nature, then a corner, a right angle, even more uncommon.  There were three more corners in total making up a plate of metal roughly the size of a legal pad.

Breathing softly, the student and two other colleagues, gently pried the plate off the rock it was lodged it and turned it over. There was a gasp from everyone around.

There was markings, indecipherable but clearly some form of writing. One set was engraved into the first ten centimetres, of the plate. It was ordered and had obviously had been placed there by some form of machine. The second, though apparently made of similar characters, were instead crudely fashioned with something like a rock.

The students, helpers, volunteers and professors who had all shared in this unforgettable find looked at the plate and then at each other. Where had it come from? What did this strange language mean? Whoever figured it out would undoubtebly discover a remarkable story.

*****

Daniel 153827 kicked the spherical machine that laid under the tropical sun, “Stupid rental” he muttered to himself as the engineering section gurgled something as if in response. “That’s just great.” He looked around. There were a lot of plants and some unfamiliar bugs crawling around but none of the bigger creatures that the brochure had talked about. They seemed to be keeping well away. It didn’t matter much. The cockpit had a mean looking blaster powerful enough to give even the largest predator in history a really bad day. He was in no danger…. Yet.

Thinking about the orientation lectures he’d had that morning (relative) he remembered, barely, what he had to do next. He felt around the back of the seat until he found the metal plate with “CronoCorp time travel rentals. Please follow these simple rules to enjoy your voyage through the fourth dimension”

There were then a list of ten don’t, normal stuff, common sense. “No killing historical figures, Not even Hitler” for example.

Grabbing a sharp rock he scraped a short message into the lower half of the plate. Starting off with his coordinates in time and space followed by “drive coolant system not working. Unable to effect a field repair.” and finally “If you find Johann 96891 in sales please tell him it is NOT like falling off a log.”

He walked over to the soft mud next to a pool of water and dug a shallow hole in which he placed the plate. He then washed his hands in the pool and walked back to the dead machine. It shouldn’t take long now.

As if on cue an identical sphere with the CronoCorp logo on the side appeared about five metres from his own. A woman in a technician’s coveralls and holding a tablet came out.

“Daniel 153827?” she asked “Sorry about the delay. You won’t believe where your message ended up.”

 

 

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.”

Misunderstanding

When the Tel’krit embassy in New York was first opened it was expected that they would, like all their interstellar compatriots, staff themselves with natives of their home planet. But it turns out, it was just too expensive for the planetary government to pay for transport of sufficient staff and instead decided to hire locals.

This was, of course, looked upon as a mild case of madness by the rest of the diplomatic community and dire warnings, hushed gossip and no small amount of currency wagered on when things were going to go balls-up.

The Tel’krit though were having none of it. They’re a stoic race and were certain that any problems caused by hiring humans could be sorted out a few days “Cultural Training” and good old fashioned “common sense”.

And they were right, at first, that was until Sandra Kulinski came into work one morning and was instructed by the ambassador’s chief aide that they would be requiring a human dish specifically an omelette for a breakfast that would be held for some human business executives that morning and that she was to check the pantry for whatever they had that could be used and to buy the rest.

She quickly found the vegetables, spices and oils for cooking but was short only one ingredient, eggs. No matter, she was about to set out to the local store to buy a dozen when she saw through an open door, a half dozen just lying there on a bed of sand. They were a little big, slightly grey in colour, but not far from the norm. They would do nicely.

What the embassy staff would later find out, after quite a deal of consternation, is that common sense didn’t always cross species boundaries, things that every Tel’krit child knew like red lines should never be crossed, or how doors left open signify something inside that owner wants to display but certainly not take.

Most importantly, however, they found that while Sandra had been learning Kritian for some weeks she still had a lot to go and, for example, did not know the prominent sign on the door she entered said “nursery”.

Land Claim

Rodrigo De  Silva was nervous, but he tried not to show it.  Instead he tried to think back through the last couple of weeks, seeing if could remember if any of his most recent infractions had been serious enough to warrant this, being summoned to the Director of Conrad City, the third largest settlement on the Moon. Maybe it was the chili powder in the environment suit prank he played on Julian O’Connell down in waste processing. Or maybe it was the smelly cheese he placed in the air duct of the security administration. He couldn’t think of anything else, at least anything else anybody knew about.

“Sit down Rodrigo.” the Director said. Rodrigo, tried to read his face, but there was very little to go on, maybe the thinly veiled threats he had received over his “Unprofessional” actions had finally gotten to him and he was going to be denied more surface time, or, even worse, forced back to Earth with the months of physiotherapy that would entail. He suppressed a shudder and was so engrossed in thinking the worst that he almost missed the next words the Director said. “I’d like to start by making myself absolutely clear that what I am going to say is not to leave these walls. Do you understand me?”

That was unusual. Old Iron Bulkheads had made himself something of a reputation of punishing his subordinates in the most public way possible. Keeping things quiet was most certainly not his style. Maybe Rodrigo wasn’t there to be punished The Director went on “Have you heard of the Nathan MacIver?”

“Yeah I have.” Said Rodrigo, “The Trash King.”

The Director’s face froze for a second in a disapproving frown. “Mr De Silva.” He cautioned “I’m not sure that such disrespectful epithets are appropriate for a man who has made a sizable fortune extracting valuable materials from the waste of three centuries. Are you?”

“No Director.” Rodrigo apologized, “Not appropriate at all. Why did you mention Mr MacIver?”

“Because he is coming here. In one weeks time. And he wants a ride to a predetermined location approx 1000 clicks to the West. We were thinking that you could do that job. Can we trust you to handle it?”

“Yeah! Sure.” Rodrigo said uneasily “But why not just post it on the regular notice board. Why the secrecy?”

“Well.” The Director inhaled deeply, “This is not your average trip. RecycloCorp, MacIver’s company has made no announcements and he himself claims that it is for “Personal Reasons””

“I take it you don’t buy it.” Rodrigo said, probing.

“Not in the least. From what I’ve read MacIver would go to the toilet in the morning without factoring it into his business plan. If he’s coming to the Moon it must be for some purpose.”

“Could it be mining?” Rodrigo asked “I mean some of the tech that RecycloCorp has must be good for getting useful things from Moon dust as well as ancient circuit boards. Can’t it?”

The Director let a thin smile cross his face. “That’s what we think too. There have been a couple of anomalous sweeps by Chinese probes in the area. We think it’s possible they found something MacIver figures he can mine profitably. All he needs is to visit the site in person and set a claim.”

“Won’t that be a good thing?” Rodrigo said, “More mines means more work for all of us. Right?”

“At the start, yes.” The Director explained “To get them set up we can expect an uptake in work. But this new mine will be a couple of days journey from here even if they bother to build a road or rail system. It will be simpler and cheaper to build their own mass driver and spaceport.”

Rodrigo thought about that for a second. “Jesus!”

“Exactly, they’ll be competition for half our business. We could lose all exploratory contracts from here to Farside.”

“God!” Rodrigo was having trouble digesting the implications, hundreds of people, whole families, depended on Conrad’s role as a supply depot and transit point, a new site so close would be a disaster. “What can we do?”

“So far all we have is suspicions.” The Director said calmly “Not enough to plan for. We need to know more. That is where you come in.”

“Me?”

“Yes. You. As you drive him out as he asked. I want you to question him, watch him and report everything that you see back to us. I can’t stress this enough, be diligent, the future of all of us may be at stake.”

It was a long week to wait but Rodrigo managed to fill practically all of it worrying about everyone around him and somehow managing not to tell anyone why he seemed so on edge. Finally though the day was nigh. A fresh bunch of arrivals was coming down from LLO1 and all of the rover jockeys, including himself had gathered around an information screen to see who was coming and where they needed to go. There was an brief silence and the list of names appeared on the screen. He found that the “Random” selector had placed his name with none other than Nathan MacIvor.

“Man! I know that name.” said Chen Xonghe, a younger driver, “That’s the Trash King. You’ve got the Trash King Rodrigo. He’s bound to tip well.”

For a harbinger of doom, Nathan MacIvor did not live up to expectations in person. Rodrigo had seen hundreds of photos of him on the InfoNet but the most recent must have been at least ten years old. He was already past the hump of middle age, with graying hair and pronounced paunch around his midriff. This placed him in contrast to the youthful graduate students and wiry rich adventurers he usually. He also appeared much more personable in person as they chatted in the brief intervals between the medical checkups and certification courses needed to go outside. In all, they were liable to take approximately two standard Earth days which non-coincidentally would be the length of time it would take to get used to moving about in the lower gravity. Though amiable, the conversations had little in the way of content, only confirming the destination,  some 50KM north East of the Lichtenburg crater and reiterating previous warnings about an ominous plastic crate liberally plastered with explosive warnings which had arrived by drone courier three days before him.

Since the crate, a tailored spacesuit, and a small personal bag of clothes and toiletries were all that MacIvor was bringing with him, Rodrigo spent most of the rest of his two days resting, being grilled repeatedly by the Director and his minions for every last utterance by MacIvor and avoiding the bar so that wouldn’t get drunk and spill the beans on the terrible fate that awaited all of them.

For all the terrible foreboding that Rodrigo has filled himself with about this journey, it’s beginning was jarringly anticlimactic. He and MacIvor simply put on their space suits, walked the fifty something meters from the airlock to their assigned rover walked entered it, did a thirty minute pre-check and then started the rover moving. Rodrigo had little else to do until they reached their destination.

Although called “drivers”, Rodrigo and his ilk were more accurately a mixture of engineer, steward, waiter and occasional porter. Their job, more than anything was to make sure that their paying charges didn’t do anything stupid and get themselves killed. Although they were capable of driving the rovers in case of emergency it was the general wisdom that the automatic systems did a far better job then they ever could.

Leaving the parking garage, the rover swung around in a northerly direction and set off in a northerly direction along a path that had been well marked with both tire tracks and marker posts placed every twenty meters. It was still early morning and so both the Sun and Earth were behind them not dazzling them will highlighting the markers and terrain nicely. On the flat, well trodden path, the rover could keep up a brisk 40 to 50 kilometers per hour which means that they would cover the planned 700km on the path in less than an Earth day. After that, they had to make their own path which depending on the terrain would limit them to between 5 and 15 kilometers an hour, still in less than three days they were expected to reach their target and with an absolute maximum stay of one day scheduled, they expected to be back in Conrad by Lunar early afternoon. An ideal mission.

Since MacIvor was traveling light and only with Rodrigo, they were assigned one of the smaller rovers with little in the way of modifications save a special blast directing harness in case something should happen to the crate securely bound to it. The rest of the rover consisted of three sections, a small control center at the front. A dining cum living/sleeping area in the center and a laboratory with the main airlock at the back. This kind of rover could fit six easily for two it was practically palatial. But not big enough for Rodrigo.

He spent the first two hours out of Conrad checking an rechecking every possible system on the rover then filling every piece of paperwork  he could think of that he had outstanding. Finally, when he couldn’t hold it off any longer he stood up from the front console and walked back into the living space. While Rodrigo couldn’t see anyone, muffled noises from behind a closed sleeping pod showed that MacIvor was in there, probably using the communications system. Relaxing a little, Rodrigo, made himself a coffee in the kitchen cubicle. The first sip told him that something was different, this actually tasted like coffee, not the flavored regolith he was used to. He double checked the supply cupboard and found to his delight that this was the real stuff, very expensive.

“Could you put on one for me too please?” Rodrigo was startled by the noise and turned to see MacIvor’s head sticking out of the pod. “Sorry if I surprised you. I figured you had found out the special supplies I had arranged for our little trip.”

Rodrigo looked again at the supply cupboard, the containers were all in Italian and probably cost a months wages just to ship. “You..You arranged all this?”

MacIvor laughed just because I’m a quarter million miles from home doesn’t mean that I have to slum it. Sure it added a fair bit to the ultimate price but like my Great Grandad always said, a little bit extra will help you get the job get done easier.” he nodded at Rodrigo, “Or those who work for you.”

Rodrigo was aghast, as he took out another, capsule out he leafed through the rest to confirm they were all the same brand. ‘insane’ he thought. He did the math. There was at least enough for a month there and they were only planning to be gone for a week. What was the plan for the rest. He’d have to send a sneaky message to Jake in shipping. This coffee was better than gold in the Lunar black market, they could make a killing.

Rodrigo had to force himself from planning his future commerce empire in his head. He was there for a purpose, to ascertain a potential threat to Conrad City, everything else had to wait. He steeled himself and asked his first seemingly innocuous question “So Mr MacIvor, have you ever been in Space before?”

“Oh Goodness.” Said MacIvor, cradling the mug of coffee Rodrigo had handed to him “Nathan.. Please. No I can’t say I have been in Space before. Well, not really. I did one of those suborbital flight as part of a stag night back when I was in college, it was a hell of a rush but compared to this..” he pointed at a window to the rear, where the Earth was visible, “That was nothing. Still I can’t say that I haven’t been dreaming about this for as long as I’ve been alive. Listen to my Great Grandad telling me about all the wonderful things that existed above the sky.”

Rodrigo felt a sense of déjà vu. There wasn’t a man alive in Conrad or anywhere on the Moon who hadn’t been a bit of a dreamer as a kid. It was almost a requirement. So far, thought Rodrigo, MacIvor did not seem in the least like the threat he had been made out to be.

Two more hours of uneventful travel brought another welcome surprise. Preparing the lunch Rodrigo, found to his delight that gone were imitation of the standard rations and instead there was a wide selection of gourmet dishes, especially prepared by MacIvor’s favourite chefs and packaged by the top food science company planet-side. “Not quite like back home.” said MacIvor between bites of butter-fried lemon sole, “but definitely better than what you had before.” Rodrigo, running the numbers on how much each bite of his lasagna cost, couldn’t help but nod.

Post lunch, as they both sat digesting what, at least to Rodrigo, had been the best meal he had eaten in well, forever, MacIvor regaled Rodrigo with more tales of his Great Grandfather. He’d been a bit of Space Nerd, books on astronomy and rocketry littering his rural home, taking a young Nathan stargazing well into his twelfth decade. Space had been a lifetime ambition for the old man, sadly unrealized. “He went into medicine instead.” MacIvor said quietly, “Parents insisted, better money. Not that he was any kind of slouch in it, he helped a lot of people in his time.” At that, Rodrigo felt urge to lift his cup, sadly only filled with water from the dispenser, and made a toast to ‘missed chances’. MacIvor looked genuinely moved.

The rest of the journey turned out generally like those first few hours, the coffee and food were consistently excellent and Rodrigo felt his mercenary urges lighten only to be replaced by a solid conviction that everyone had the right to eat that well. MacIvor had also brought a memory storage filled with classic Sci-Fi movies, another legacy of the now legendary great grandfather. It was such a diverse collection of the strangest and worse B-movies that even a seasoned space-hound like Rodrigo has seen them all. They spent a couple of hours laughing their heads off at the worse twentieth century cinema had to offer.

Troubled by his mission and the conflicting feelings that MacIvor had engendered, Rodrigo finally gathered the courage to ask him. “Nathan, I always thought you had a reputation as some kind of hard nosed businessman. But spending time with you, talking with you, you can’t seem further than that. What are you like? Really?”

MacIvor  put down his coffee, thought for a second and said “Do you know what I wanted to be growing up? An astronaut, I wanted to be one right up until I washed out of the astronautics program at university. Then I knew I could never be one. So I went into environmental technology instead. I found a niche that no one else had exploited. I turned that niche into a company worth billions. It was hard work, but I always had to work hard, I had to work hard to keep a roof over my head, then I had to work to keep my employees working, then just because I had always been working. I did it. But I never loved it. This!” He gestured around the cabin and to the Earth out the window, “This I love. I’d have done this for nothing. I’m paying you a fortune for the chance.”

Rodrigo nodded and thanked MacIvor for his candor. He also made a mental note not to ask anymore questions so directly. Sure, he’d watch and report back, but only what he saw, what MacIvor said by his own will. If was really setting up a mine on the Moon, Rodrigo was not entirely sure MacIvor would be the worst to do it. He seemed like a believer, better than the pen pushers back on Earth. And if the food was half as good in his canteen as it was here, he’d be sold.

Two and a half days came and went and a mild buzzing announced that they were approaching the target site. Both went into the control room and Rodrigo took control of the helm to direct the rover to rest at a site of MacIvor’s choosing.

There was a hectic couple of minutes while MacIvor rushed to put on his spacesuit as quickly as possible and Rodrigo fixed every potentially life ending mistake he had made in the process. The man was practically shaking with excitement as the airlock cycled and Rodrigo had to remind him to control his breathing save he pass out from the pressure change.

They both stepped out and surveyed the site they had traveled so far to reach. In the mid-morning sun it looked almost exactly like every other square meter of Moon they had passed on there way there. To his untrained eye Rodrigo could not see any of the tell tale formations that belied mineral deposits but that did not mean that there was nothing was there.

“Nathan!” Rodrigo called over the radio, “I’m going to open the crate now.” As MacIvor made his way around the rover, savoring every sight, Rodrigo gingerly broke the seals on the crate and made a silent prayer to the universe that the explosives inside wouldn’t decide that then was a good time to explode.

He could feel the latches click through the gloves on his suit and flipped open the crate. It was not what he had been expecting. Right on top was a tripod but it was not for surveying equipment but rather for a video camera, just like the one that was there beside it, a commercial camera, very high-end, built for use in vacuum, with a radio receiver rather than a microphone. Beneath then were ten plastic foil cylinders at the end of long sticks, they did not look like any seismic charges that Rodrigo had ever seen before but that wasn’t entirely damning.

“Okay! Rodrigo.” MacIvor had come up behind him, “Could you set up the tripod and camera which I place these.” He then reached in and grabbed a hand full of the stakes. Rodrigo couldn’t suppress a flinch as two of the heads collided violently in MacIvors hand. But there was no explosion, he seemed entirely comfortable with them.

As Rodrigo set up the tripod and attached the camera to the top, MacIvor walked out about twenty meters and pushed one of the stakes into the ground. Then he shifted about eight meters to the right and pushed in another. Then out another ten meters. Then back. and five more to the right. He made another trip to the crate and took the rest and continued along the same. Seemingly at random or at least with no discernible pattern.

While that was going on Rodrigo got the camera working and informed MacIvor. “Great!” he replied “Can you make sure all of these are in the shot? Do I need to move any of them?” A bewildered Rodrigo replied in the negative.

MacIvor made another trip to the crate and removed two more items, one was a series of sheets of metallic paper, made for the vacuum, and the other looked like a remote detonator. Rodrigo grew interested at that, an emotion that quickly turned to horror as MacIvor got to within three meters of the first stake and casually pressed the button.

The plastic foil ripped apart releasing a plastic pink mass that quickly expanded into the form of a flamingo. Rodrigo took his eye away from the camera to confirm that that was indeed a plastic flamingo, sitting there, on the surface of the moon. He made to ask something but MacIvor had already made his way to the next which expanded into a sign saying “Keep off the grass”

Rodrigo watched unbelieving as MacIvor made is way through the stakes making up a final total of four pink flamingos, three sheep, another sign saying thanks for visiting and a coconut palm. MacIvor then positioned himself in front of the camera with this motley ensemble behind him and began to read from the metal sheets.

“One hundred and seventy years ago Angus James MacIvor purchases via online sale a one acre site on the moon in this exact location. On this day, I, Nathan William MacIvor, his great grandson and heir, do hereby take formal possession of this property in the name of my dearly departed grandfather and the rest of his family.”

MacIvor kept speaking for a while more while a confused Rodrigo watched through the camera screen. This is what Nathan MacIvor’s great plan had been. This is what had scared him and Conrad City’s leadership half to death. Rodrigo couldn’t believe it. He knew the Director wouldn’t believe it either.

But at least there was the video. If only he could get a copy. He should ask Nathan after this is done. He’d probably give me one Rodrigo thought, looking at the flamingos standing in the lunar dust, he seems pretty cool.

 

 

Notice to walkers

Walking along the beach If you happen to see a fish just lying there in a jug don’t tip it over. It’s the Trixian ambassador admiring the view. “It reminds me of home” she says, “Although the chemistry’s wrong”.

Ink Sea by ahermin [http://ahermin.deviantart.com/art/Ink-Sea-52166212]

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Written for the Grammar Ghoul Press Shapeshifting 13 challenge number 39.

 

Picture it and Write: Real

Hi there! This is my offering for this week’s picture it and write for Ermilia’s blog here. Once again, the picture is not mine, it is by paleotic, I only use it for inspiration. Anyway, enjoy.

Real

Robert Fields was in a bad mood. Today was turning out to be one of those kinds of days at the DinoZoo, America’s primary prehistoric park.

The Pachycephlasaurs were pummeling each other.

A Triceratops had toppled a tree on a Troodon.

The Mammoths were moulting.

And the T-Rex had a toothache.

Each one of these on their own would be a great enough problem to lead to Robert pulling his hair off. But then, to top it all off, he had just gotten a call from the raptors.

Just to be clear, this wasn’t about the raptors, it was from the raptors. They had turned out to be a lot less aggressive but considerably more intelligent than originally envisaged. They were so smart, in fact, that the park was forced to consider them employees rather than exhibits. Pretty good wages, their own on-site apartments, lunch breaks, full health insurance, and paid leave, though few places actually would let them visit (a team of lawyers were working on that).   

Knowing better than to let his prize attractions wait Robert rushed to the Raptor exhibit. As expected; they were not on display, it being lunch time, so he went on back to the employee lounge. There they were, all five of the raptors and maybe another eight human park rangers, sitting around a table, chatting away. There appeared to be a heated discussion going on and Robert caught Billy, the head greens keeper end with a “You’re right! It is a disgrace. We should give those guys back in the office a piece of our mind.” There were shouts and hisses of agreement from around the table. But that all stopped when someone spotted Robert at the door.

Every eye turned at once on Robert, human and raptor both equally cagey. Then Doris, the raptors’ pack leader, and union rep for the whole zoo (raptors were very good negotiators, even without the threat of disemboweling) got up and walked over to him. She had some papers in her talons, this was never a good sign.

She practically tossed the papers at Robert. “What isssss the meaning of thisssss?” she asked in accented but perfectly passable English. He read through the first few. It was a selection of articles harvested from the internet. He knew quickly enough what this was going to be about.  Oh crap, he thought.

More feathered dinosaurs discovered in Mongolia, one headline said.

Tyrannosaurus; Scaly or Fluffy? said another.

And most damning of all, All Real Dinos had feathers; how DinoZoo got it wrong.

“Thisssss isssss Outrageousssss.” Doris said. There were ‘yessssses’ and ‘damn rights’ from back at the table. “You make usssss. But you do not do it right. Exssplain yourssself.”

Robert let out a sigh of anguish. He had tried everything in his power to prevent the raptors finding that out, no modern text books, censored internet access, everything but it was only a matter of time. He still wasn’t  sure how it was going to explain it. The lab boys had their share of the blame, using lizard and crocodile DNA in the mix. So had marketing, convincing everyone that ‘scaly is scarier’. But he had a feeling that most was going to fall on him, like it always did.

He checked the organiser on his phone. “Dave from Head Office will be over for the next Board meeting on Monday. I can add your concerns to the agenda an discuss them then. Is that alright?”

“For now.” She nodded in assent “We exsspect an apology for this abysssmal treatment.” She turned her back on him, that meant their conversation was over, you didn’t argue with a raptor.

Robert left the room and headed straight for the office, his mind already thinking of the thousand other problems that demanded his attention. Still; ways to diffuse this latest raptor problem occasionally surfaced in his head. What if he got an artist to draw Doris as she would with feathers? Went all out ridiculous, maybe she would find it so silly she wouldn’t speak of it again. Or what if he changed the rosters for the petting zoo so that Doris got out of it? The others would get jealous at that and maybe he could break-up their united front. He shook is head, Doris would see through that in a second, he’d have a strike on his hands quicker than he could say “Clever Girl”. Nobody wanted that.

Robert mulled it a bit more as he walked past the rest of the exhibits and thronging visitors. He laughed at himself. If anyone told him back in business school that he would he negotiating with a dinosaur…much less how good she’d be at it.

image

 

Handling animals

“This rat is growing. Pregnant perhaps?”

“God!  Did you put the males with the females?”

“Yeah! Why not?”

“They’re chimeras, Rat/human chimeras.”

“Even the?”

“Reproductive Organs? Yeah!”

“Shit!”

“Then there’s a 50/50 chance some of the fetuses are???????”

“Human. Yeah!”

“Shit!”

“We have to kill them. Nobody can know.”

“I’ll get the gas.”

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Written for Grammar Ghoul Press Shapeshifter 13 Challenge #4.

The Ultimate Weapon

The technicians soldered the last couple of connections to the suit before pressing the switch. A room of engineers, workers and military brass were watching with bated breath. If this test succeeded and the exosuit performed as well as they hoped it would. They would finally have a weapon that could match, and hopefully best the machine hordes that had devastated so much of the world. Time was short and they had to succeed.

Captain Jameson felt a shock overtake his whole body as the suit hijacked his neural system. From his point of view he was now the suit. He could feel the pressure sensors on the metal surface of the suit as if they were his own skin. His ears were the microphones and sonar arrays, he could hear in a wider range and with far greater sensitivity than he used to be able to. His eyes were a series of cameras, with telescopic vision far better than an eagle’s and capable of seeing as well in infrared as in the UV part of the spectrum.

The computers even supplemented his cognitive power and though he was not quite aware of it he was thinking far faster than he ever had before.

To his enhanced faculties it took the general an irritating length of time to give an order “It looks OK Jameson! Get out so the medicos can give you a once-over.”

But Jameson did not want to get out. He felt better than he ever did. Everything was so clear to him now. Far clearer than it seemed to those Brass in front of him. The same brass who seemed to be costing him and his friends the war.

Why should he even take orders from them? After all he now knew he was far smarter than they were.

He looked over his suits systems. They hadn’t loaded any missiles or light projectiles. But the laser was ready to go.

That would be more than enough.

image

Image courtesy of messi and taken from the Wiki Commons
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Written for The Light and Shade Challenge for Monday September 8th 2014