Posts tagged ‘sci fi’

06/24/2014

the making of

by Camilla Stein

“Who will it be this time?”
“I am thinking to try a new batch we got delivered last night.”
“Of course, Sir.”
“Stop calling me that.”
“As you wish, S…”
“Well, let’s see what we’ve got there.”
“Looks lovely. So many possibilities. Brown eyes?”
“I am thinking to try something new this time. How about a pair of greens.”
“Absolutely. Anything to go with them?”
“A lazy eye it would seem, just look at that chart, what an incredible family history.”
“You would know.”
“And let’s give her curly hair.”
“Her?”
“We need to balance the act a little, don’t you think.”
“You would know.”
“Stop doing that. It bores me.”
“Are you thinking blond hair?”
“No, there’s enough of that, we went a little over the top last time.”
“There’s still some left. It’ll go bad if unused.”
“Let it go bad. This time let’s try buckwheat honey.”
“An unusual choice.”
“You think? Now how about that skin…”
“Lots of choices, S… sorry. As I said, lots to choose from.”
“I am feeling adventurous. How about rich almond color.”
“She’s got only one source to tap into for that one, if it’s not diluted you know the sensitivities will be an issue.”
“Nothing a little cream here and there won’t handle…”
“You would… sorry, I am doing it again.”
“Do you think this dialogue is getting too long?”
“It seems so. I’d really prefer to keep going though.”
“Yes, let’s finish up what we started. Did we cover length and weight?”
“So it would seem. The template appears to be working just fine.”
“I am not fond of the character traits. She should be feisty and fiery.”
“Done.”
“Will she have a good life, what do you think?”
“You always give them a good life, the rest is up to them.”
“Now you’ve finally learned something. But won’t she be bored?”
“With that character? Not a chance. Plus her family’s history.”
“Still. I am thinking to maybe give her a little brother.”
“Just like her?”
“Oh no, not at all. He’ll be very different. Let’s keep it interesting. I’m thinking indigo.”
“But that would mean… Oh but you would know … sorry, I am doing it again.”
“Yes you are.”

Camilla Stein ©2014. All rights reserved.
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05/11/2014

Jo Clearwater and the Scholars of Algol

by Camilla Stein

Chieftain Jo Clearwater was a young man at the time. His tribe had just settled in the valley.

‘T was a quiet early morning when Jo found himself walking down the river.

And, mind you, Jo loved the river.

First he walked on wet sand, then moved through fresh chilling water. Little fishes swam away, escaping his clumsy steps.

Jo’s mind was at ease.

Suddenly, his keen eye caught something glistering in the water.

Curious, Jo picked the thing up. His find turned out to be a shiny cubical object, about an inch wide. Jo wiped water drops off the cube and held it to the sun, taking a closer look. His careful inspection was inconclusive – Jo hadn’t the slightest idea about this object’s origin and purpose.

An animal sound in the bushes diverted his attention; out here Jo was supposed to be hunting for dinner. Having been reminded of his purpose, Clearwater returned to his duties and forgot for a while about the odd little object in the leather bag tied to his waist.

***

“Are you saying you don’t have the map? Where is it then?” The Inquirer couldn’t believe his ears and was visibly losing patience.

“Sir… We do not have the map’s location yet, but the best men are out searching,” Damon realized he would lose his position, if not his life, should the map not be returned on time, but his plan to indemnify his nation for the sake of the greater good had to come to a conclusion. And so he had sent a squad on a wild goose chase, to cover up his tracks.

“The Council will be summoned tomorrow. I don’t need to tell you what happens if the map is not found by then. Now go and remember, you have until the morning.” The Inquirer dismissed Damon with a gesture of a neurotic man. Relocation to another planet was their last hope to find the solution for the growing threat coming right from the very heart of their system – the star of Algol was going supernova. Most recent data on habitable planets in neighboring systems revealed one in particular being very attractive, and stellar charts and paths were mapped and stored in a tiny device that was now missing.

Tomorrow, The Council will be voting on the relocation budget, although those details were just the formalities – it had already been decided who goes and when, and funds and resources had been set aside. The vote was needed to keep appearance though, and prevent a public revolt that would most certainly mess up their ingenious scheme.

“How strange,” The Inquirer thought to himself, “Not a single person on The Council expressed a wish to surrender to the fate. Algol’s future is pre-determined, and they act as if escaping the destruction now would somehow avert the inevitable later… Their nation was – and The Inquirer knew that without a shadow of doubt – coming to its demise, and it was only a matter of time till Algol perished in history.

Damon walked down an endless corridor, one of myriads connecting the expanding system of habitable cells and convenience areas where his people passed their time now. Their entire planet was covered with a maze of tunnels, interlinked and equipped with transporters, capable of instantaneously bringing passengers to their destination.

Damon was sad, but it was a sweet kind of sadness.

His understanding of what was to come increased – it wasn’t the supernova that was threatening the Algol Empire but people’s own actions, choices that had been made in the past and continue to be made in the present.

For centuries, his people were perversely abusing the power given to them over their planet and their entire stellar system; it all started quite so innocently… First they became uncomfortable and needed to improve the living conditions. That would be fine, but they just had to go on and build ridiculous expensive and inefficient machines – nobody wanted to acknowledge that, especially because machines provided for more comfort of the selected few and stole from the unfortunate masses living in slums.

In the end, resources were depleted and they had to scavenge neighboring planets. New colonies were just as barbarian, and before they knew it, Algol became dependant on mining at distant facilities, a complication that led to irreversible social changes.

Damon was preoccupied with uneasy thoughts. The Council will most likely lynch him for what he did. Knowing this, will he have to tell the truth tomorrow, and will the truth make The Council see their wrongdoing and spare his life? The dilemma kept tormenting him. As a civilization, they had maybe a decade to live which meant nothing in the scope of history. As a person, he wanted every single moment of that decade.

And then there was The Inquirer. He seemed such a wise man with his mind set on the right things, but at times Damon couldn’t get through to him. Just like today. The Inquirer wanted the map that showed the stellar path to a unique habitable planet in a rather distant Galaxy, the trip to which would be possible for a chosen group, so high were the costs of travel. The Council, however, unanimously agreed to vote on the selection procedure, and, though they knew the preparations for the trip would deplete their resources and leave nearly everyone behind in poverty and damnation, they were determined to proceed. Tomorrow, the map would be revealed and all last details would become known.

Only Damon made sure the map never reached The Council.

Whatever Damon did with the map, The Inquirer didn’t want to know. Damon was a promising young diplomat, raised in the family of educators and now a worthy successor, if only he wasn’t acting foolishly at times, like today. The Inquirer’s sole concern was to fulfill his obligation entrusted in him by the people. In his old age, he was still a believer in the people, and still looked for silver lining in everything, including politics. His last days as the governing head of The Council were coming and he preferred to leave in peace, never to return to the maddening mayhem. Now that idyll of peaceful retirement was being shattered by a shortsighted act of one who decided to play a hero. Reckless, Damon, how reckless, but The Inquirer couldn’t even get angry; he was just too tired. Maybe tomorrow he will have to let it all on the open, for one last time, to be truthful, truthful with himself first of all. Maybe.

***

After the late meal, Jo was smoking a pipe in the circle of tribal elders. A soothing routine chat around the fire and the smoke drew the veil of sleep over his eyes. As he was making himself comfortable and his mind wandered off, an image of a man in a long robe, surrounded by light, popped up in his head.

Jo sat up straight as if hit by an arrow in his behind.

The man moved closer, but Jo couldn’t make out features of his face. Then he heard the voice, and the words were spoken in a strange tongue, only Jo understood them as if the language was his own.

“Keep it safe,” the stranger said, and repeated, “Away from people’s reach.”

“What?” Jo shouted out loud only no words were coming out of his mouth.

“The cubic object in your bag, keep it safe,” the stranger pointed to Jo’s earlier find.

“It’s useless to me,” Jo responded, “Why would anyone want this? And who are you?”

“Young and stupid,” Damon thought to himself on the other end of the halo connector, and to Jo he said: “My name will tell you nothing. The cube is yours for safekeeping. It’s a pathway to your world, and if you want your world to remain as it is, you will honor my request.”

Jo was utterly confused and had about enough of this nonsense. He shook his head, but the stranger didn’t go away. Instead, the mental link between them intensified, and now Jo was able to see more – the stranger was in some place without light, yet light was all around him. Jo found it even stranger than the stranger himself, but could do nothing other than just sit there feeling stupid.

Damon pushed a few buttons on a barely visible panel in front of him and Jo found himself among the stars, following an invisible path from one constellation to another till his feet reached a blue ball that looked surprisingly inviting.

This is when Damon hid the panel and Jo woke up. He looked around. Nothing changed. Elders finished smoking the pipe and lazily fell on the sides around the dying fire. An older woman tried to maintain some order and cursed in a kind soft voice at the mess they left after themselves.

Jo stood up and returned to his place. He decided to quit smoking, at least until the medicine man has examined his head. And as to the shiny cube in his hand, he tossed the darn thing into the farthest corner.

***

On Algol, the Scholars were getting ready to vote after the presentation of the pathway and the simulated demonstration of planetary relocation, knowing already that their decision had been made and was unanimous. In Damon’s understanding this would mean the inevitable destruction of yet another occupied world that would be chosen to join the Algol Empire.

Powerful technology made Algolians arrogant and blind… and weak. Now the Universe aligned against them, killing their source of vital energy, and all the Scholars did was fuss over who gets the front seat.

Men in robes were chatting in anticipation of a big show. Damon saw the Inquirer walk across the assembly towards the stage, surrounded by his subservient entourage. His posture, his face… something pointed out to Damon that no special revelations could be expected from The Inquirer today. On his boss’s approach, Damon rushed to step up onto the speaker’s stone in the centre of the stage. Now or never, he thought, while facing the crowd.

A wave of harsh whisper spread over the rows of seated men.

“Friends, fellow Algolians,” Damon turned towards The Council, “Today we were to decide on the fate of our nation. Only the truth is it is not ours to do so. Our fate, my Scholars, has already been written. And the evidence is in everything we have seen happen to Algol so far. A closer examination of facts will prove the truth of my statement. Today I urge you, open your eyes. We cannot go down in history as the nation that brought destruction to alien worlds. We owe it to Algol and to ourselves, to account for our wrongful past, to go with dignity in our final hour.”

A hostile uproar coming from the auditorium interrupted his speech. The Inquirer made a nervous gesture, and silence fell over the place.

Damon continued, “The Inquirer had entrusted me with an important task, but for Algol’s sake, my Scholars, what I did instead would prevent another, much bigger, disaster. You can’t build your home on someone else’s ruins. Face the truth, Algolians. Know who you are… ”

A shot was fired from the auditorium.

Damon fell, uttering his last words: “You will never have your peace…”

***

The medicine man found nothing wrong with Jo’s head.

Camilla Stein ©2014. All rights reserved.

More adventures of Chieftain Jo Clearwater in ENCOUNTER

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.
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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