Posts tagged ‘flash fiction’

01/02/2012

SPLINTER

by Camilla Stein

“A cute little predicament, isn’t it?” Trudy lifted up her porcelain teapot. “More Darjeeling, dear?”

“Yes, please.” Gemma pushed her china forward. High tea parties were seldom now, and she enjoyed Trudy’s peculiar stories, not told anywhere else these days. “Indeed, I suppose. So very odd how things turned out in the end, don’t you think…”

***

“Down, bring her down.”  A group of builders on the site were preparing to release the space tower’s first platform. The site was off limits but for occasional family visits, usually granted upon request to the administration.

The operator on the air glider looked out to make sure the target was aligned correctly. “Hey, what’s that?” he pointed a gloved finger at a green spot beneath the vehicle. He couldn’t tell from the glider’s altitude whether the sprout was a budding tree or a future flowery bush.

The discovery was most unfortunate.  The anti-pollution technology that fed government neo-concretization policy encouraged corporate giants to enter bidding wars that led to lucrative contracts, but eco-terrorism interfered with the business.  While there was no winning against the oligopolies, smaller subcontractors, like the operator’s employer, could eke out a living by riding their coattails and getting some of their crumbs.  Purification technology was big business. And planting trees in urban zones was now illegal.

The operator landed and powered down his glider. The board of directors would most likely want a formal investigation into the incident, which meant freezing the project without pay for the workers. His son’s tuition was due in a week. Deep Space Training Division didn’t care for delays. What a headache, he thought heading home, not knowing what to tell his wife.

By morning, the sprout grew several more inches and its trunk thickened. The inspector took samples for the lab, while field techs combed the entire site. They found evidence of an intrusion, but without clear prints or other physical clues. Somehow someone paid the site an unauthorized visit and planted the seed under all that foamy neo-concrete, using DNA homogenization to cover his tracks.

The operator could not return to the site the next day, or the day after that. While he waited for a work recall, he feverishly searched for the solution to this uncalled for crisis. He couldn’t have his son suspended, but being angry wasn’t helping anyone and he only kept nodding to his own restless thoughts.

***

Gemma examined the tea stains at the bottom of her cup. “I don’t understand how she got away with such an offense.”

“Well, my dear, we—women, that is—have always been pretty resourceful,” Trudy winked mischievously as she cut a slice of lime.

***

The lab results showed that the sprout, now a tree of six feet, was an exotic plant with an acceleration mechanism in its makeup. The tree didn’t need food or water, and would grow to match the space tower’s height in a matter of days. A disaster! The board of directors unanimously voted to uproot the tree and catch the troublemaker.

The operator got off his transmitter. His brother agreed reluctantly to lend a sum, just enough to cover his son’s tuition. Momentarily relieved, he turned his thoughts to the tree. He didn’t like when his life plans were interrupted, even for a greater good. He could think of a dozen other ways of getting the message out without damaging roustabouts and other workers who couldn’t afford to get involved. Since losing his position as the prosthetic architect and having to plough in manual labor, the operator held a grudge against these protesters – they were to blame for the accident that got him fired. Now he wanted to have a face-to-face talk with the thoughtless fool. Thinking that his friend in the lab might know more, he dialed up.

By the time his wife got home from her shift at the power station where she was employed as a consultant biologist, the operator had the “when” and the “how” of the incident. Investigation of the “who” was ongoing, but the DNA homogenizator made discovery unlikely. Based on smudged satellite images, they could confirm the perpetrator was a woman, but for all intents and purposes, she was anonymous and would remain so forever.

“Darling, I had a very curious encounter at work today. One of the inspectors from your company…”

 The operator drew a neurotic smile at her last words. My company? Doesn’t she know who runs everything these days?

“You know how I’ve been freelancing for this sustainability advocacy, the movement against neo-concretization?” Trudy continued, “That female intruder of yours created quite a buzz! Turns out they can’t uproot the tree and need to know the key to the plant’s genetic code to destroy it – they can’t quite crack the code on their own. Isn’t that odd? Oh well, they won’t find anything, trust me…” she almost whispered. A naughty sparkle in her eyes gave the operator a tic.

Camilla Stein ©2011. All rights reserved.
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05/28/2011

SPLINE

by Camilla Stein

Savannah looked out the window. Thin smoke was rising from behind the old clock tower, and the always so busy street was now suspiciously empty. Alarmed, she dialed Nen’s number on a pliant little gadget inside a panel of her desktop communicator, waited a few seconds and dialed one more time. Nen was not responding.

     Savannah wondered about his priority message earlier this morning. She couldn’t make much of it; technical noise jammed the transmission. She looked out again.  Something was not right.

     While she was about to close the window, a frantic cry came from around the corner and a distressed woman in her mid 30’s ran through the street as if she were being chased. A sleeve of her bloodstained coral dress was torn and her brown pumps were missing a heel. She was deliriously waving her blaster to no effect.

     A mighty roar in the distance caused the woman shrug and draw nearer to the wall. The roar closed in as its echo shook the neighborhood. The woman was looking for someone, knocking on doors and screaming.

     Savannah froze behind the blinds. Her door was next so she decided not to wait-in one grab she pulled the fugitive inside.

     “Shhh… Not a sound! Keep to the floor.” The woman exhaled, terrified. “It’s here!”

     “What are you running from? Who are you?” Savannah whispered back, shaking off angst. Whatever had happened to her uninvited guest, it must have been very bad-she was getting weaker by the moment.

     “I’m a tracker.  I just got back from Andromeda, worked on a station there, undercover. The Aurorans have insurgents everywhere. Not that civilians are supposed to know that…” The woman coughed blood at an attempted laugh. “My last assignment was to investigate disappearance of two female officers on the station. That case led me to many more…Now my partner is dead and I will be too, soon, but not before this…” Savannah noticed a tiny silver sphere in the woman’s hand. The woman forced herself to stay awake. Her coral dress was soaked-she was bleeding out.

     “You’re wounded. Hang in, I’ll get the kit.” Savannah crawled into the kitchen to fetch first aid utilities. When she returned, the woman was barely conscious.

     “Don’t waste your time, I can’t be helped anymore. Here, take this.” The sphere slipped into Savannah’s palm. “It’s the Auroran memory chip. The data is encrypted. Nen is the only one who can crack the code and deliver the list to the High Council without compromising the entire operation. Maybe it’s not too late.”

     “Wait a minute…Nen? My brother?” Savannah’s head was spinning. “He’s not here. I’ve been trying to reach him all morning.” So, the woman’s ending up in Savannah’s home was no coincidence. Nen indeed knew someone who knew someone in the High Council, but he didn’t like talking about his connections.

     “Yes, him.  His profile is in our system. Yours too.” Savannah’s eyes widened. She reckoned there was more to her brother’s life, but didn’t fancy finding herself in the middle of an espionage thriller.

     The woman gasped for air and continued in a fainting whisper. “Listen carefully. I need to leave immediately. Use your neutralizer. You have one in the kit, don’t you? It should be sufficient to erase evidence of my ever being here. They sent a neuro-robot to follow us…me…He killed my partner and is now sniffing through town. I managed to burn a part of his matrix, but Auroran technology is highly sophisticated.  He’s adapting as we speak. Whatever happens, he should not find you.” She pulled out a pill from a secret compartment inside her belt.

     Savannah heard rumors of such inventions. The drug was said to put a person in some sort of a temporary hypnotic state, inducing a nerve block and causing rapid recuperation. The catalyzed abnormally high energy level was enabling subjects to work through pain and injury, but would wear off quickly. The effects were lethal and the drug’s application was restricted to military personnel, to be used in terminal cases.

     The woman got up, gave Savannah a brave look and stepped outside just as another powerful roar spread through the street so close Savannah had to cover her ears. She then reached for the first aid kit where she kept her neutralizer.

    Nen parked his capsuloid on the roof and hurried to transport down to Savannah’s place. He doubted that his sister got his message; there was so much interference on every channel. He managed to alert several friends, and they, in turn, exercised necessary precautions. By the time Nen arrived, the entire town was locked down.

     Savannah’s worried face startled him the moment his body materialized out of the tube, but instead of making a scene, she handed him the sphere and sat down.

     After Nen’s manipulations with the Auroran code, the two were looking at a cryptic list of names.

     “Terminated, I suppose…” Nen pointed to the crossed ones. “And those with red dots next to them are due, scheduled for. Do you understand?” He turned to Savannah.

     “Why only women? And what are these symbols?” She was shocked and confused; her stomach was curling from nausea.

     “High Council speculated that the Aurorans were behind nasty bio experiments on humans, but there was no hard evidence to go with.” Nen continued. “A large number of female residents with infertility problems went through artificial insemination in our clinic on Andromeda’s station. Seventy percent of them disappeared in the third trimester.”

     “The insurgents!” Savannah jolted at recalling the tracker’s warning.

     “Indeed. The symbols must be names of Auroran infiltrators. Impregnated and carrying alien fetuses, the women became disposable after the extraction. This here is the proof.” Nen shut down his decoder and was now inspecting his blaster.

     “What will happen when we deliver this list to the High Council?” Savannah looked up at her twin brother, seeking to confirm what she already knew-Earth was bracing for an interstellar war.

Camilla Stein ©2011. All rights reserved.
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