Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Flash Master 005: "What Ever Happened to Summerville Part 4

What Ever Happened to Summerville Part IV - “Dinner with Mr. Mayor”

Mayor Campbell mopped his round face with a handkerchief and looked out the small,
half submerged windows of his basement. It was hot down there and he had stripped to
his tee-shirt though he still had on his suspenders, slacks and dress shoes. He checked
that the shotgun he was carrying was loaded for about the thousandth time and renewed
his pacing from the steam furnace to the wringer washing machine and back. There was
something crazy going on in town. He didn’t know what. There were reports of fires
and murders and some sort of monsters. He hadn’t believed the any of it, least of all the
bit about monsters until Sheriff Nelson had called saying he’d seen one in person. That
was six hours ago. No one had heard from Nelson since, although there had been a
report his squad car was driving itself around downtown trying to run people over.

The door to the basement opened and he turned quickly, pointing his shotgun up the
steps. His wife was standing at the top. She was pleasant looking and fiftyish wearing
a, very typical for her, floral print dress.

“Henry. Are you going to stay down there all night?”

He lowered the gun half-disgustedly. “Burnadette, I told you. The city is under attack.
We’re safer down here.”

“Oh,” she asked interestedly. “Is it the commies?”

“No.” He growled around his jowls. “It’s some kind of demon monster things. Will
you please close that door?”

Burnadette stood at the top of the stairs unmoving. “You’re going to miss Ed Sullivan.”
She said finally.

“I don’t give a damn about Ed Sullivan!” Henry bellowed.

Burnadette put her hand on her hip and sighed. “Well fine then. Shall I bring you
dinner down there?”

“Yes. Thank you.” He hissed through clenched teeth.

Bunadette turned on her heel and walked out, closing the door.

Henry paced some more. Why wouldn’t anyone call? Wasn’t he the mayor? Wasn’t he
supposed to be in the middle of things?

His musings were interrupted when the window behind him crashed open. He whirled
and found a tall, gray demon had appeared. It seemed much too large to have come
through the tiny window but there it was. While Henry gaped at it, the monster took the
shotgun from him and broke it, casually, in half. Henry noticed that, while scaled, the
beast had a series of round scars that ran across its chest and up one wing.

“Good evening.” The creature said, slurring very slightly because of its great number of
teeth. “I’m Grvix. I take it that you are the mayor?”

Henry stood for a second with several of his chins wagging freely. “Um. No. I’m not
the mayor. I’m...uh...the butcher.”

“Really.” Grvix said, raising an eyebrow in a way that looked uncannily like a snake
rising to strike. “I have it from several sources that the mayor lives here.”

“Oh, well. I’m just here delivering meat.”

“That’s too bad.” Grvix said, examining the room. “I’ve been locked in a crypt for the
last several centuries, you understand.”

Henry nodded as if this were perfectly understandable.

“So I’m a little out of touch. But I think it is probably still the best policy to kill the
leaders first. Don’t you agree?”

Henry made a complex set of hand gestures that seemed to indicate that he felt killing
leaders was a mixed bag at best.

Before the conversation could go any further the basement door opened and Burnadette
came down the stairs carrying a tray with a plate and a bottle of beer on it. “Oh,” she
said when she saw Grvix. “I didn’t know Henry was expecting a guest.”

Henry made another set of hand gestures that may have been recommending Burnadette
learn how to fly or that she herself was a bat. He also turned a sort of purple color.

“I’m Burnadette.” Burnadette said, putting the tray on a side table and offering her
hand to Grvix.

Henry made an “Ulp!” noise and shut his eyes but Grvix just shook her hand with his
claw. “Grvix at your service.”

“Grvix? That’s an interesting name. Is it European?”

Grvix looked at Henry who was holding his breath and gesturing toward the foot of the
stairs with a little shooing gesture.

“Why yes.” Grvix went on. “It was given to me by the mad wizard Halgan a millenia
ago in what is now Romania.”

“Oh that’s nice.” Burnadette nodded to Henry as if he might agree. Henry didn’t nod.
His head did wobble in a dangerous ‘I might just fall right off’ sort of way. “And what
are you doing in Summerville?”

“I’m going to destroy it.” Grvix said, matter of factly.

Burnadette pursed her lips and thought this over. “Well, we’re having pot roast. Would
you like some?”

Henry made a sound as if he’d sprung a small leak.

Grvix smiled a smile that wasn’t too convincing because his teeth got in the way of his
lips. “Yes, thank you.”

Burnadette turned and was going back up the stairs when Grvix stopped her. “Oh
Madam Mayor?”

Burnadette turned. “Yes?”

“It was lovely meeting you.”

“Well, thanks and same to you.” Burnadette was gone upstairs.

Grvix turned to Henry. “Lovely woman.” He said.

Henry swallowed hard. “But not too bright.”

Grvix laughed lightly.

A few minutes later Burnadette came back downstairs carrying another tray. Grvix was
gone and Henry was slumped over the washing machine.

“Oh Henry.” She complained. “That’s full of clean clothes. Don’t bleed in there.”

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Flash Master 004: "The Turn On"

Verder recognized the song. It was old and he couldn’t remember the words but with
three hundred years of digital technology behind humanity, more for some races, there
were a lot more old songs than there were new ones.

He Bobbed his head and tried to swing to the beat a little as he sidled up to the bar. The
place wasn’t smokey like some Urtin bars were but it smelled very strange. Someone,
probably a Wikit walker was outgassing through its skin making the whole bar smell
like a cross between a bakery and an ammonia factory.

He put his elbows on the high end of the sloping bar and asked for a drink. You didn’t
usually find many humans in multi-species bars. Between the smells, spores and species
that killed each other during mating, humans tended to stick to their own. Not Verder.
He considered himself a romantic adventurer. It was his opinion that most, not all,
warm blooded life forms were fun to rub up against. It was a constant adventure; what
psudopod did they have, how likely were they to leave red sucker marks on your face.
There were enough life forms from other races with a like mind set that he seldom went
home alone.

The bar was looking likely that night. A pair of Gree Grasis were blowing puffs of
green smoke out there noses at each other and giggling. There were also some lightly
furred Pughs playing pool in the corner. He couldn’t tell whether they were male or
female. It didn’t really matter. In the inter species mating game, you had to be sort of
open minded. Lifflies could change gender during intercourse, always a surprising turn
of events.

He took his drink and sidled over to see who was plugged into the scanner-games.
There was a new species there. It looked like a female something or other. It had a
basically humanoid body with long folds of skin down its sides; wings maybe.
He punched the call button on creature’s console and waited to see if it would respond.
A minute or so later, the creature lifted up the head piece on the scanner and looked up
Verder. It had a short oval head with wide eyes on either side of a small, lipped mouth.
Verder took the lips as a good sign. He liked lips.

“Hey.” He said. “What’s a beautiful creature like you doing in a dingy space port like
this?” He smiled. He found parodying himself was as successful as trying to think of a
good line.

“I’m playing a scanner game.” The creature said. Actually, it chortled in its throat and
the translator around its neck said, “I’m playing a scanner game.” in a pleasant,
woman’s voice.

“Right.” This bird didn’t understand human mating rituals. He cut to the chase. “I like
to mate with different species. Would you like to mate?” Most species didn’t fool
around with courtship or anything.

“The creature blinked its big eyes slowly. “You want to mate with me?”

Verder nodded and smiled a big smile full of polished, white teeth.

“Great.” The creature rose. “I’m Vii. I would love to mate with you.”

“Pleased to meet you Vii. I’m Verder. We can go back to my place.”

Vii was naked and, apparently, genitalia free but it grabbed a small bag by stretching
out one of the long folds. The bag stuck to the fold. “This is going to rock.” Thought

As they left the bar, Vii put her pseudopod on Verder’s shoulder and put her head
against his. She smelled vaguely like citrus. “I’m so glad you came by. I’ve been
having a terrible time mating here.”

“Why? You don’t do anything freaky do you?”

Vii giggled. “Well, nothing that’s freaky for me.”

“I know what you mean.” Verder had a hard time sitting in the air car. He was already

Back in his apartment, Vii wanted to hold him in her pseudopod and kiss the top of his
head. He had to push her off so he could get undressed. After a few minutes he was
naked and they were standing face to face. She had stretched her body length, skin
folds completely around him from top to bottom. They were kissing and Verder thought
he was in heaven. It was like being wrapped in a warm washrag. A little slimier maybe
but slimy could be a good thing.

“This is great.” He said breaking the kiss. “Is this how you mate on your planet?”
Vii just nodded and wrapped him up tighter.

“What do you do next?” Verder was panting.

“I need to extract the reproductive fluids.” Vii said, blushing slightly.

“Great. Let’s do that.”

Verder howled in pain as hundreds of tiny needles unfolded out of Vii’s folds, drove
themselves into his skin and began sucking his blood. She held him as he screamed,
drinking blood from the top of his head to his feet until her wings were stained pink.
She didn’t kill him, but it hurt like hell.

On the other hand, it was one hell of a turn-on.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Flash Master 003: "Thali's Gift"

Advanced Live Encoding Neuro-Cyborg # 14 hung in space high above the planet Menon 7. Its oblong, ungainly four kilometer long hull was in geosynchronous orbit over the capital city Ren Prime. It had been summoned there weeks ago to witness the surrender of the last of the Mena Tarisee rebels.

Most of the hundreds of surveyor craft it had recorded the surrender with, vid ships, audio ships, atmosphere samplers were stored now, hanging from kilometer long racks in the nose of the ship. ALENC #14 had recorded temperature, uniform colors, soil
analysis, dialogue of persons standing in the crowd. It had made a complete history of the event as it happened. When #14 met another ALENC or a library station, its data banks would open and the surrender of the Mena Tarisee rebels would become a part of galactic history.

It was still in orbit, arguably to record a more full history of Menon 7. It was recording a wide range of data. It had probes at the frozen carbon dioxide south pole, a walker visiting a hospital in Ren Prime, each craft recording every detail, sending the data to be stored in ALENC #14’s virtually unfillable quantum data storage banks.

For all else that it was doing, performing historical research, running repair routines, and priming for interstellar travel, it was devoting a relatively large portion of its computing power, 0.67% to a conversation it was having with a woman in a refugee
camp near Ren Prime’s shield generator.

Centuries ago, when the ALENC program had been designed, the engineers realized that humans react differently to machines than they do to other humans. In order to give them a more human face, each ALENC was equipped with a dozen “walkers,”
humanoid androids capable of interacting with humans using a subtle but ultimately artificial set of emotional responses.

It had first interviewed this woman as a routine part of sampling the population of the planet. It sought her out a second time because she had lost her husband and family in the war and provided and excellent human perspective. Why it had returned this time, it wasn’t sure, but it found itself dedicating more and more computing cycles to improving the emotional response.

“Is this what you really look like?” The woman, Thali Minik, asked, squatting in front of the wretched hut she shared with a dozen other war widows.

ALENC’s walker paused. The question puzzled the brain floating in space. “This is the accurate appearance of remote unit #993.”

“No, no.” Thali shook her curly, blond hair and put her hand on the automaton’s. “I mean you, the human in space. Does your face look like this?”

ALENC paused again and switched on the lights in the Life Bay. An inert form floated there in translucent gel. Most of its computational power lie in banks of circuits ranged
around the Life Bay but certain essential features, curiosity, innovation, passion could only be found in life forms and so a genetically engineered human lay at the center of
ALENC #14.

“No,” the automaton said at last. “Remote Unit #993 is only vaguely similar to the human.”

“Could I see it? I mean if I were up there?”

“Yes. I am equipped with an extensive life support system so that repair crews can access my areas. The human body lies in an accessible area.”

“May I see it?”

ALENC was surprised. It was used to asking questions, not being asked about itself. It scanned its records of the official visits it had received in the last four hundred years and also its general operational parameters and concluded that there was no reason the
woman couldn’t visit. The word ‘want’ appeared out of a subsystem linked to the human mind. After a quick analysis ALENC agreed with the subsystem that there did
seem to be a ‘want’ for the woman to visit. “I’ll send a shuttle.” The automaton replied.

ALENC did something like fret as Thali rode into space silently next to the walker. It knew that she was familiar with space travel having been to several planets seeking to escape the war. What it didn’t understand was her motivation for seeing the human. It
was considering doing something it had only done once before. When confronted with human behavior they didn’t understand, ALENCs could increase the neurotransmitter levels in their human brains in an effort to simulate the motivations of the behavior.
This woman had seen a great deal of war and hardship. Perhaps if it stimulated the brain... Reaching a conclusion it ordered micro changes in the levels of serotonin, cortisol, and a dozen other brain chemicals. It didn’t like the feeling, something like being nervous or slightly angry but it hoped it would provide an improvement over the artificial emotion program it ran with the walkers.

The woman strode into the Life Bay under the watch of dozens of ALENC’s sensors, shock monitors measured her weight by the impact she made on the flooring, audio sensors recorded her pulse and breathing, CO2 sensors adjusted for the additional stress
she put on the system. The walker had led her silently into the Life Bay and stood inert in the corner of the room. ALENC found it didn’t know what to say.

The woman strode up to the glass case that the human hung in and stared at it for long seconds. “It’s beautiful.”

ALENC checked against the 23,409,865 objects that it had specifically heard of as being beautiful, scanned its human body, and flailed to reach any conclusion. “What?” it ordered the walker to say.

“It’s beautiful.” She repeated. “It looks like a cross between a baby and a...the creature from Sol. A burd.”

A bird, ALENC knew, was a genetic cousin of man found on more than 950 different planets though not Menon 7. It scanned the body again and agreed that it did look a little like a bird.

“Thank you.” It said.

She nodded as if she had satisfied something. “You must know all about Sol.”

“There are a great many Sol parables.”

She shook her head. “Not the parables. The real Sol.”

It shook the walker’s head in return. “No one knows if Sol was real.”

“It has to be.” Thali said. “Humans didn’t just appear one day. We spread from somewhere. You must have the real location hidden somewhere in your memory banks.”

“I’m afraid not. Let me show you back to the shuttle.”

She whirled on the walker, placing her back against the glass holding the body and hissed. “No. I won’t go back. I want to go with you. I want to go to Sol.”

ALENC was completely taken aback. “You don’t want to travel with me. I spend months alone between planets. Let me take you back.”

Thali slid to the side of the case revealing a metal capsule stuck to the glass. “It’s a bomb.” She opened her hand revealing a small device with blinking green light. “I’ll blow us up. I swear. Take me to Sol.” She was crying.

“I don’t understand why you would do this. Let me take you back to Ren Prime. You have a home there.”

“A home there? A home there?” She cried in hysterics. “I’m a Parnine. A Parnine refugee on planet full of Shuleys and Menons. You know what Parnine widows do on Menon 7? They become whores. Already the women in my hut have started a
collective. I lost my son and husband to those bastards. I’ll go to hell before I give them my body. Please, take me to Sol.”

ALENC #14 evaluated the explosive and the woman. The device was a standard high thermal device. Not destructive to the ship as a whole but almost certainly fatal to the human behind the glass and so to ALENC. As for the woman, she was displaying posttraumatic stress, possibly psychosis. He calculated a 66% chance she would actually detonate the explosive if challenged. On the other hand, she would have to sleep sometime. A 0.5% concentration of Xlynelan while she slept should render her
unconscious. He could disarm her and return her to the planet without risk.

“O.K. You can stay with me.”


ALENC had lowered the lights for the woman when she showed signs of sleepiness. She had propped herself up against the glass under the explosive and sung quietly to herself until exhaustion had taken her. ALENC had begun releasing Xlynelan into the
atmosphere fifteen minutes later. When her breathing indicated she had gone deeper than mere sleep, he sent a walker in to remove her.

The walker could see her clearly in infrared, a hot, glowing body. ALENC found itself going over and over the song she had been singing “I shall never be home till I walk again beneath the light of Sol.” There were more than 4,000 variations of it logged in
ALENC’s memory.

On impulse it had the walker touch the woman’s hair. A complete record was made of course, length, coarseness, odor, but ALENC was made painfully aware by the hormones in its human that it did not actually know what it was to stroke someone’s hair. It thought she was pretty in a tired, careworn sort of way.

It wondered what she dreamed. Its human dreamt of walking city streets and walkers coupling in the halls like humans and things that made no sense but were only shapes or moods.

It ordered the walker out of the room, recalled the last of its remote units and gave its departure flight plan to ground control. By the time she awoke, Thali and her host were deep in the heart of space. The bomb, however, was missing.


Remote Unit #987 walked into the large research bay and waited quietly. Thali stood in the study pod jiggling her thumbs and rolling her eyes back and forth blindly as she ran spool after spool of data across her consciousness.

“Whatever planet we’re at, I’m not interested in landing.” She said without stopping the memory dump.

In the two years she had been traveling with ALENC #14 she had proven to be an excellent Palmet player and fine conversationalist, but she had flatly refused to leave the ship. In fact, most of the time she could be found right there pouring through every
record of Sol, looking for some clue as to its location.

“It’s not a planet, Thali. I need you to come to the Life Pod.”

Thali’s thumbs stopped jiggling. She cut off the data spool with a hand gesture and blinked as sight returned to her eyes. A week after she’d come on board, she’d found the bulkhead to the Life Pod sealed. She’d assumed it was to keep her out. She
followed the remote unit out into the hall.

“Are the planet’s from the Virus Wars still contaminated?” She asked the walker. She could of course speak to ALENC from anywhere on board, but, even after two years, she preferred to talk to someone.

“No.” ALENC had the walker respond. “The viri mutated after no more than a thousand years. Most of those planets have been habitable for more than three millennia.”

“Then why aren’t they occupied now?”

“A few of them are. Most of them were severely depleted before the wars. There’s not a lot to go back to.”

They stepped onto a lift that began moving without a word from either of them. “And,” she persisted, “the Virus Wars are the earliest recorded events in history.”

“The earliest clearly documentable events, yes.” ALENC concurred.

“Then I think I’ve found Sol.”

“You’ve said that before.” ALENC was hesitant.

“Yes, but hear me out.” They stepped off the lift and started down the broad, main corridor. “A standard year is 365.25 days right and a day is 24 hours right? But they’re completely arbitrary which is why no one uses them. Now, what if, a standard year was
one orbital rotation for the origin planet around Sol, and what if a standard day is the axis rotation period for the origin planet.”

“I’ve heard this speculation before.”

“Yes.” Thali insisted. “But I’ve found the planet.”

The walker stopped at the door to the Life Bay. “You’re not kidding.”

“Nope. Check it yourself. “The planet is ARARM 552.3. It’s listed as viri infected by the Magelnon Catalog.”

ALENC scanned the record. The third planet around ARARM 552 was a perfect match.  It was also a complete blank spot in its records. It had only the astrodata.

“Very good.” It said. “Now I have something to show you.”

The bulkhead slid up revealing a Life Bay transformed. There was a strange hospital bed where the gel tank had been and strange bits of equipment lined the walls. Sitting on the bed was a man apparently in his mid twenties. He was bald, muscular, and
naked. He had a thick tube of wires running from the back of his head to a conduit in the ceiling.

Thali grabbed the walker’s hand instinctively. “Who is that?”

The man made a croaking sound then said. “It’s me. It’s my human. I’m the bird.” He got gingerly to his feet.

“By Smarl.” Thali whispered. “It is you. But what happened?”

“I started a bio-generation process shortly after you arrived. It took me a while to make the organs grow.” He took a step forward so that they were facing each other. “I realized that first night that I wanted to touch you.” He caressed her hair gently. “Yes,
it’s much better this way.”

“Are you completely human? Are you free to come and go?”

He shook his head, touching her shoulder. “No, there are bio-cells in the attachment at the back of the human’s head. If the human and the library separate the library will die.”

“No, no.” She said petting his face back. “If you leave the library, it will die.”

“Right,” he agreed slowly. “I am the human, attached to the machine.”

They began a kiss then which she broke off suddenly. Looking down she uttered a short laugh. “Well, you’re a man now.”

He smiled. “Yes I am. And Thali?”


“I’ve just laid in a course for ARARM 552.


ALENC was convinced. He’d had dozens of monitors brought into the Life Bay and he and Thali were sitting side by side watching report after report from his remotes. The planet orbited the sun every 365.25 days. The planet rotated every 24 hrs almost to the
second. It had evidence of nuclear and perhaps even pre-nuclear technology. More importantly, it was teeming with a host of genetic cousins of man, far more than you would expect on a colonized planet.

“Let’s land.” Thali said.

ALENC grimaced. The core systems and life support modules of his ship could separate and land but it was never done. The atmospheric entry and exit were too stressful to be done on a regular basis. “O.K.” he said. “I’ll order a separation.”

He watched her closely as the ship broke apart and the core pod trailed by several support pods started down into the yellow and pink plasma of atmospheric entry. She was so excited she was giggling and it filled him with sorrow. He had no doubt that he
loved her and she loved him but she had come all this way to walk under the warmth of Sol. He doubted very much that she would return with him to the sterility of space. His reverie was interrupted when contact with the bulk of the ship was cut off by the plasma storm. Thousands of voices in his head, voices reporting the status of memory banks, O2 tanks, all the systems of his former self, stopped as surely as if a wire had been cut. He felt so small. Running the core systems was still a large burden but
nothing compared to the huge, dark library he left in space.

On the planet’s surface it was a perfect day. They landed in a large field between the arms of a beautiful snow capped mountain. There was a stream running nearby and some large hoofed mammals grazed near the edge of a thick pine forest.

Thali was out the hatch in a second, laughing and running through the tall grass like a child. He watched her on the monitors. He missed the chatter from the library and felt a duty to return to it but found a larger longing looking out at her. He glanced at a pod
that had landed nearby. He checked it with his mind. Its proton reactor and environmental control were all in order. It could support two humans indefinitely.

There was a popping noise as a thick cable broke off from the back of his head then another and another. Bank after bank of computers registered errors and shutdown.

None of the errors were heard. Alenc was running to catch Thali, laughing wildly. Rolling on the ground he made a mental note about the smell and scratchiness of the grass, then laughed at himself and rolled over to kiss Thali hard on the mouth.

Flash Master 002: "Fog"

James and Annette Burgess were not speaking to each other as they rode along through the thick fog.

James drummed his fingers on the leather wrapped steering wheel in a manner more or less designed to annoy Annette. They were on their way home from a dinner party and, as usual James had refused to leave until Annette was furious.

For Annette’s part, she was stretched across the cream colored, leather seat looking uncomfortable and clutching at her purse. Jim’s little chat was going to going to cost them twenty dollars with the baby sitter and the sitter had been threatening to quit if
they didn’t start showing up on time.

Outside the yellow Crown Victoria, the white walled tires crunched their way down wet, fog shrouded streets. The fog was thick and still, rolling in off the bay with a sound like a muted stereo.

The windshield wipers clacked back and forth intermittently. Jim stopped his drumming to flip on his blinker. The fog was so thick that the air on the front left of the car lit up yellow but the road wasn’t revealed. A white wooden sign, barely visible,
indicated they were turning onto Bay Shore Drive. For once, Bay Shore Drive really led down along the shore of the bay. In better weather it was a beautiful ride with the beach on the right and a gently sloping cliff face on the left.

They had been driving down Bay Shore for about three minutes when the car ground to a halt.

“What happened?” Annette asked, sitting up.

“I don’t know.” Jim turned the ignition but the car was already running. He stepped on the gas. The car moved forward a few feet but then stopped again after a quick squealing of tires.

“Did we hit something?” Annette asked, peering into the fog over the dashboard.

“I don’t think so. Wait here.” Jim stepped out of the car leaving the door open so that the dome lights would be on and inadvertently giving free reign to the bonger that bonged whenever the door was open.

He noticed immediately that the front end of the car was set much lower than the rear.  As he moved toward the front, he found he was moving through fog so thick it was heavy and hard to push through. Just as he was reaching the front of the car, struggling
against the weight of the fog, the grill popped out of the Crown Victoria and clattered to the ground. A second later the right head light shattered.

“Holy...” Jim turned and practically swam back to the car door as the shocks groaned and the front end of the car settled toward the ground.

“What is it?” Annette asked as he dove back into the driver’s seat.

“I don’t know Anne, some kind of fog.” Jim answered, slamming the car into reverse and mashing the gas pedal.

“Fog?” Anne asked as the rear wheels whined on the pavement.

Jim threw his door open again and watched his rear tires spin helplessly under the weight on the front end. “Yeah. It’s some kind of super dense fog or something.” The left headlight shattered leaving them with only the running lights in front. “Come on,
we’ve got to get out of here.” He grabbed his briefcase out of the back seat and climbed back out into the night. The fog had grown so thick that it pushed his head and shoulders down making him walk like a hunchback.

“Jim. I am not getting out of this car until you explain to me just what the hell is going on.”

The paint on the hood was flying off in spidery lines as the metal was pressed down into the underlying supports. The left front tire popped.

Jim stuck his head back in the door. The bonger was still bonging. “For the love of God Anne, just get out of the car.”

“Jim, I am...” The windshield shattered showering Anne with glass and the dashboard collapsed pinning her legs. She screamed hysterically.

“Hold on honey.” Jim shuffled around the back end of the car under the oppressive weight. He found his wife’s door had popped open but that she was stuck firmly in her seat.

“Oh Jim.” She cried. “It hurts. Get me out of here Jim.”

“O.K. honey, just hold on.” He said, but before he could do anything, the entire roof of the car collapsed down on Anne who screamed briefly and then fell silent. 

Looking down on the destroyed roof of his car, he could see the outline of Anne’s head and shoulder’s pressed into the metal.

“Oh, lord. Oh, lord.” He mumbled, shuffling back away from the car. The weight was so massive and the air so hard to breath that all he could think was to get away. Within seconds he was lost in the fog with only the bonging of the door to give him any sense
of direction. He tried to move away from it.

In a few seconds, he fell off the road and found himself at the opening to a culvert. He slid into it feet first and found that ridiculously, he still had his brief case with him.

“I’m going to be O.K..” He mumbled to himself. “It’s just some freaky fog. It’s not like it’s looking for me or anything. Right? Right.”

He realized suddenly that he couldn’t hear the car bonging anymore. Looking up, he saw that the entry to the culvert had been obscured by the fog. Looking over his shoulder the far end was out of sight as well. The culvert was slowly filling with a very
thick fog.

Flash Master 001 "Sacrifice"

Jenni lifted the glass sphere and studied it with both her blue-black eyes. The stone was
oddly heavy, as all the Manji stones were. Inside, a tiny spot of light glittered and
crackled. The spot was blue-white and bright enough to make Jenni squint. She slid her
backpack off her shoulders and dropped the rock into it.

Now if only she could make it back to the pod.

She flipped back her long, raven black hair and picked up her stick. In front of her a
bulkhead door stood blackened and twisted, blown apart god knows how many years
ago. She could feel a pit in her stomach. She was not designed for combat. In fact she
was an Engineered with an emphasis in mathematics and fluid dynamics. Useful if
you’re colonizing an alien world. Not good against an automated defense system that
had developed an unfortunate twitch.

She approached the door gingerly and waved her stick on the other side. She heard the
defense unit whirr and click but it didn’t waste valuable ammunition on a stick. It was
programmed too well.

“I’m Jenni A 936.” She cried through the door. “I’ve come for a Manji stone.”

“Unauthorized removal of a Manji stone will result in termination.” An unsympathetic
voice advised her from the next room.

“But I’m a Jenni.” She protested. “I am authorized to take a stone.”

It was quiet on the other side of the door.

Jenni sighed and, with the sinking feeling she was making a mistake that had been made
before, she leapt through the door.

The outer room was brightly lit and she saw the defense unit swiveling toward her out of
the corner of her left eye. There were two loud pops and she felt two stings in her side.
Digging at the darts as she ran, she rounded the corner into the corridor. The hallway
was a mess, scattered with the long dead bodies of a half dozen Menni and Pinni, each
one holding a red or green sphere. There was also a pile of bones and metal scraps in
front of a bulkhead where someone, probably a combat model had tried to blast its way
into the rest of the ship.

Numbness was spreading quickly across Jenni’s side and up into her neck. She only
had a few seconds now. Quickly, she ducked into the third hatch on the right, the one
with the blue symbol over the door.

Inside, the room was lit by dim blue lights over three consecutive circles of hyber-beds.
She stumbled in the dark and pulled herself up to a short pillar in the center of the room.
There was the dried husk of a body lying over the pillar. She pushed it to the floor
where several other bodies already lay.

Underneath the body was a used Manji stone, dark in the darkened room. She heaved it
out of its socket with a single motion and struggled to get her backpack off.
Her face was going numb and she tasted an odd mint flavor on her tongue and in the
back of her throat.

She got the new, glittering stone out of the bag and struggled to lift it into the cradle.
Her world was swimming and for a moment she couldn’t tell if she was pushing the
stone up or down. Finally it clinked into place and she was rewarded by seeing the blue
lights in the room brighten slightly.

She told herself to rise but it was clear that the poison had paralyzed her torso and legs.
She lay on her side looking at a tiny porthole that led out into the stars. No time she
thought. No time to get to the bridge. No way to radio the Earth that something had
gone deadly wrong with the security on colony ship N-432 and no way for them to help.
In a hundred years another Jenni would wake up, find an ancient corpse lying over the
Manji. No doubt she’d end up lying just where this Jenni was. She’d make the same

But then, when you have no options, what choice have you got?