About Dave

Surfer, Marine Biologist and Technologist = The ingredients of writing the perfect Sci-Fi

Where Do Sci-Fi Writers Get Their Ideas? Part III

EEven if you are not a writer, this is perhaps one of the most inspirational TED Talks I have ever watched (Anne Madden).  It should make you think, something our media is trying to suppress.

I encourage every writer of sci-fi to watch and absorb.  Listen and let your creativity loose, let it be the muse over your shoulder, pushing you to write that sci-fi great.  I have, with my previous novellas (November Seedand From Europa With Love), both works inspired by my own research, as a former Marine Biologist, and having absorbed snippets from TED, Wired, Space.com, ZME Science  or from posts by my fellow G+’ers (you guys and gals rock!)

 

Anne’s talk is bursting with hard sci-fi nibbles for a writer, such as: ‘A human devised solution‘ or ‘vaccinations for fear‘ or ‘beer made from wasps‘,  her concepts come rapidly and I had to watch this talk a couple of times, hitting pause often to write down some ideas in my file, Book Of Ideas (every writer needs a file like this).

Finding ideas to write about is simple: The real universe exists within itself, as you will hear, but every writer of sci-fi, including myself, feels trapped sometimes, that every sci-fi plot has already been written.  Maybe this is why we are seeing iteration after iteration of the same thing; just how many alien species can there be who has one primary objective and that is to kick Humanity’s ass?  To break out of this monocular view, Anne says one thing that can turn us from this view:  ‘Most of the life around us remains unknown‘  I love this statement.   It is the one statement a writer of sci-fi should strip away and use as a mantra and be that break-away writer, typing out the next best seller.

Some of my own ideas that came from listening to this talk:

  • Anne states, ‘One cell is not a powerful alchemist,’ but a Novemdecillion (10 to the 60th) of them working together, are.   Using the immortal template of  Don LaFontaine, “In A World, under the dictatorship of a government controlled bacteria, where the true thought police of humanity, live within…”  Think of what your protagonist could do against that?
  • What about a lab geek on a spinner (space station) who the crew loves and adores, because he or she can make exotic flavored beers from bacteria found on alien worlds, to break the monotony of their long hauls through space.  But the beer that tastes like the finest wine, a silky smooth texture has hidden attributes (which I will leave it up to you what those attributes are… think along Anne’s line of, unknown.).
  • Or about a military deep-ops team on a planet, whose adversary is so ruthless that it strikes fear into even the most insane, psychotic, toughest bad-asses Earth could produce, but taking a mere pill that ‘vaccinates against fear’, albeit for only 1/2 hour, allows them to proceed.  This is enough for you to create a scene so nerve-racking for your reader, because time is running out for a few due to someone losing the bottle of pills …… 
  • In my current work in progress (Silversides), I dropped in a subplot (inspired by a TED Talk) of the backstory of my protagonist’s mother, Haruka Matsui, who plays a minor introductory part and who created a medical breakthrough, bioSketchers, for humanity’s final halt of natural selection, where controlling one’s DNA is just a cocktail away.  My concept for this backstory has it’s roots in a TED talk, where the researcher was racing toward a final one-two punch of curing aids… But what if something we are on the cusp of eradicating is also the key that unlocks everything (aka, bioSketchers)?  Although this is a very small chapter in Silversides, I know I’m coming back to it, where Haruka’s story and the story of bioSketchers will be told.

 

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Waiting For The Asteroid

With June 30th approaching ( Asteroid Day), here are a few things you can research, read and watch to prepare yourself.

RESEARCH:  Start with the leading authority of all things asteroids by going to Asteroidday.org.

READ:  I had started a series of sci-fi shorts titled: End Of Days.  One of these stories deals specifically with an asteroid event, called, Under Eden

WATCH: 51 Degrees North: A collaboration of Dr. Brian May and Grig Richters.  A life-changing film that led to the creation of Asteroid Day.  Both the trailer and full length versions of the film can be found below.  You do not want to miss this.

To see the full length movie, click here

Red Velvet

ADAPTATION SERIES: Red Velvet

The Giant Red Velvet Mite: Dinothrombium pandorae

“Tevis, have you located Newell?”

“He’s out.”

“Who let him out?”

“No one.  He’s part of Ops and has the overrides. But with our EVs in maintenance, he’s out there on foot–”

The pound of the colony commander’s fist on the table startled her; she had always thought of him as cool and calculated.

“What’s he doing out there? He knows we’re into the 220s of the year.”

“He sent a message he was going to see if he can get the beacon back online.”

“Get him on comm for me,” he growled through the clench of his jaw.

Tevis had anticipated this and pushed forward the PTt toggle on the console.

“CQ CQ calling CQ.  This is A1DUP, Alpha-One-Delta-Uniform-Papa.”  There was a faint hiss and crackle coming from the console speaker on her desk.  She turned the volume up.

“Call again.” he said more calmly this time.

Tevis could see the vexing of muscles along his jawline and repeated the call signs.  A second or two passed which seemed like an eternity.

“N2EEC N2EEC, this is AD2DB, Alpha-Delta-Two-Delta-Baker.”  Relieved, Tevis let out a breath between her pursed lips.

The commander reached down and grabbed the call mic from the stand as Tevis pushed forward the PTT toggle once again.

“Newell, let’s not make this a rag chew.  What the fuck-up are you doing out there?”

Tevis released the toggle.

“Trying to get the aerial back online, sir,” Newell said between breaths, “before the KapCo supply shuttle cruises past us for the second time.  If we miss this window, sir, it will be another five days of rations.”

Tevis and the commander could hear Newell’s labored breaths as he trod through the soft sand with a heavy toolkit all of which was taking its toll on him.

“You know we’re in the 220s and what time of day it is.  You had your orientation on the mites … you don’t want to be out there when they get to the surface–”

He snapped his fingers for Tevis to give him the conditions out there.  “I am ordering you back here, immediately, Newell.”

Tevis brought up the ENV panel and swiveled it toward him.  The temperature was up, and the frozen CO2 had already begun to evaporate. It was too late. He tilted his finger for Tevis to push forward the toggle.

“They’re out on the surface, aren’t they, Newell?”

“Yes they are, sir,” he responded, “but I’m double sealed. They aren’t getting in.”

The mites were bleeding to the surface to eat and mate. It has been 247 days since their last migration and the females velvet abdomens were flush with eggs waiting to be fertilized; the males purposeful in finding a host to carry their young. Newell had not been stationed here long enough to see this event before today, but the orientation videos he watched did not prepare him for what he saw now.  When he reached the aerial, it looked as if someone had draped the antenna in red velvet.  The thought of pushing away that many mites to locate the problem made his skin crawl.  He dropped the toolkit to the sand, and the mites began to crawl onto it, the beacon seemed to be a magnet for them, and he was starting to think this was not such a good idea to be out here. His hero mentality had evaporated, and his idea of impressing Tevis seemed secondary at the moment.

“I’ve arrived,” he said through his helmet mic., his tone, regretful.

“What are you seeing, Newell?” The commander asked.

“A whole lot of mites, sir…” he answered.

“Get back here, Newell.  We’ll spray you down, and you can survive in the chamber for 48 hours for quarantine and observation.”

“I’m already here, sir,” he said against his better judgment as he looked down at his chest and legs of his EMU suit swollen with clots of red mites that were crawling upwards toward his helmet.  He swept his hand across the visor, smearing the mites on the Plexiglas, their viscous yellow insides spreading a swath across one eye, just enough to be bothersome like an itch he couldn’t scratch.  He reached down to brush off the lid to the toolkit and flipped it open, the back of the lid crushing fistful of mites that set off a chemical wave through the colony, now agitated and swarming toward the disturbance.

“This is not going well,” Newell said through his mic.

Tevis wanted to grab the handset from the commander; she could hear the pulsing of blood in her ears at the rasp of Newell’s voice. She pushed forward the PTT button in anticipation.

“What’s happening, Newell?”

There was no immediate answer.

“Newell!” shouted the commander into the mic.

“I’m heading back, sir,…” said Newell, the shout of the commander getting him to refocus.

“Good. We’ll be ready for you.  When you reach the rim wait for further instruction.”  Tevis released the toggle and she slumped into her chair with relief.

“Let me know when he’s in sight,” the commander said peering out the window and handing the handset to Tevis, then turning, he left without a word.

She waited until he left the room before toggling open the channel to Newell.

“Where are you, Irwin?” Tevis asked using his first name.

It was good to hear her voice, but he was beginning to feel he made a fool of himself.

“I’m still here, Tevis,” he said addressing her by her first name and disregarding her rank.

“I’ll be with you the entire way, Irwin.  Hang in there.  Our SAT will pick you up in another five minutes, and I will guide you in.”

“Thanks, Tevis.”  He needed to focus on her voice and knew that any stray thoughts could open the door to panic.  But It was getting difficult, the smear across his visor had changed, uneven, like a melt. As it was, he had to contort his head in the helmet to see below the distortion, and even that was no benefit for his non-dominant eye.  He was covered in mites, but he knew not to brush them away this time, so he shook his head, which seemed to work for short periods of time before the visor was covered again.  Fortunately, he could see below the distortion to his feet and follow the footsteps he had made getting here, occasionally shaking his head to clear his visor, but it was becoming more frequent, and he was starting to get dizzy from it.

“I have you on SAT, Irwin,” she said with a lift in her voice as she zoomed in on his coordinates, but froze at the site of the red mass surrounding him and pooling from the beacon tower.  She let go of the toggle in time for him not to hear her gasp and could taste the bile in the back of her throat.

It made him feel better that at least she could see him. “Just keep me on track, Tevis… it’s getting hard to see my steps.”

“You got it, Irwin.  You’re heading in the right direction.”

Although the mites were small, only a shirt button in size, the sheer number of them made his knees wobble from the added weight.  Another shake of his head to clear his view and he almost fell over.

Tevis could hear his breathing becoming shallow and faster, and she knew panic might be setting in.  “Slow down your breathing, Irwin.  One step at a time, and breathe in deeper.  I’m right here with you.  We can do this.”

This was the longest conversation with Tevis since his arrival over fifty days ago when he attended her orientation briefing.  He knew she was of Native American heritage and he tried to imagine her face right now, her rounded chin and full lips, her high cheekbones and narrow eyes framed by her raven black hair. He thought his status and lack of social skills would never get her full attention, but here he was, and he had her full attention. Don’t blow this he kept chanting to himself. Don’t blow this…

Tevis tried to keep him focused on her.  “Where are you originally from, Irwin?” She asked while monitoring his progress.

“Ah… um… East Coast… New Jersey….” He replied and almost stopped to answer her.

“Keep your pace up, Irwin.” She said a bit more commanding.  Maybe it was not a good idea to distract him like that.  She knew he seemed to have a thing for her, his nervous glances when the crew was in the canteen together, the crack of his voice when they worked the same shift as he performed telemetry maintenance in and around the control center.  She wanted his safe return.

He thought he was in good shape, taking longer strides and had his breathing under control, but started to smell something like the scent of solder fumes, so he picked up his pace, stepping on more and more mites pooling around him from all directions.  Another shake of his head and it dizzied him, dropping him onto one leg where he felt the squish of mites on his knee and gloved palm.  It repulsed him, and he sprang up and shook off the mites from his arm and could see the bright yellow splotches on his suit and glove.

“You okay, Irwin?” she said with concern.

“Yeah… just got a little dizzy trying to clear my visor.  I will remember to stop next time before I do that.”

While monitoring his progress, she thought back on her time here; this marked her third cycle on J147b. She was one of the original team members remaining and knew what the mites could do to a person.  Twenty days after landing here, she had almost lost her life from a bite.  Fortunately, removing her leg before the infection spread saved her.  What they did not know was that had a female mite bitten her, it would have deposited thousands of eggs into her bloodstream.  They still knew very little of the mite’s life cycle, and with a reduced budget this year, they did not have the resources to get an exobiologist on site. All they knew was not to go out in the 220s during the mite’s yearly migration to the surface. Maybe if she had let Irwin know she was wearing prosthesis as a result of a bite, he wouldn’t have ventured out.  But why would she, it’s not something you just come out and say to someone upon arrival, and she wanted to keep that part of herself, private.

What concerned her at the moment was the shear number of mites she was seeing.  In the three cycles she has been stationed here, she has never seen this many.  From the view on the SATcam, the soil had turned velvet red and her glance out the window at the  crater rim above, confirm what she saw on the screen.

Newell was in sight now.  “I can see the base, Tevis.”

She looked out the window and saw him standing along the rim there as a wash of red spilled over the edge into the crater.   She toggled the overhead to notify commander Ricklefs.

When Ricklefs arrived, he looked out the window and was disturbed by the amount of red spilling into the crater toward them.  He grabbed the mic.

“Newell… stay there.” He waved his hand for Tevis to toggle off the mic.  “I can’t let him in.  He will endanger all of us.  You of all people should understand that, Captain?”

Tevis felt sick to her stomach, but she knew he was right.  There would be no way of separating him from the mass of mites.  “Yes, sir.” She replied.

“Good.  Do what you must.   He turned and left, leaving Tevis to herself.

“Sir, where should I approach? Irwin asked.”

Tevis couldn’t bring herself to answer.

“Sir?  Are you there? Commander? …. Captain?”

Tevis toggled on the mic.  “Irwin…” and he heard the death sentence in her voice.

“No… No… You can’t leave me out here!”

“We have no choice, Irwin,” and this time he heard a sharp inward sob. “We can’t open the doors for you.  We have no way of killing them without killing you in the process.  You will have to see if you can wait them out, then we can come out and get you.”

“That’s not true!” He shouted through his mic.  “You can vacuum the hatch and kill them!  Please… don’t leave me here.”

“You are not wearing a pressurized EMU, Irwin. And even if we left one in the hatch there would be no way for you to transfer into it without the mites getting in it with you.  You need to wait them out.”

“I can’t, Tevis… I think my outer suit is compromised and the visor is distorted– I don’t know how much longer it will hold up.”  He began to panic and had been so focused on her voice he had not realized he was in total darkness from the mites covering his helmet.  He shook his head, but couldn’t knock them clear, so he reached up to swipe the visor clean, and the weakened section ripped free, the mites pouring through the gaping hole.

Tevis could hear his screams being choked off in silence.  She swiveled in her chair and began to dry heave, then looked out the window to the top of the crater rim, watching as his clotted arms frantically attempt to remove his helmet before toppling into the crater. He started to slide down the face of the crater but was halted by a mass of red pushing back. And suddenly he was being passed back up to the top of the rim like a mosh pit of fans raising one of their own until he disappeared beyond her view with the drape of red receding with him.

Tevis could feel the phantom burns in her limb and reached up onto the console to shut off the feed from the SATcam.  She stayed there with her hands clutched together and her head resting above her knees and under the shade of her dark hair until she no longer felt nauseous.  Ten minutes had passed before Tevis took a deep breath and sat up.  She pushed her hair behind her ears and wiped her eyes.  Maybe it was time to leave this rock, she thought.

“Captain,” came a voice from behind.

Tevis turned to see the new arrival.  His patchwork indicated he worked in the mining division.

“Commander Ricklefs granted my request to see you.”

“Come in, private.”

He stepped quickly and deliberately toward her and stood at attention.  “I knew Newell, ma’am, ” he said?  “We had arrived together on the same shuttle, and I heard what happened to him.  He thought very highly of you, ma’am.”  From his pocket, he pulled out a small sack and stretched out his hand.  “Ma’am, this morning, Newell handed me this and told me that if anything were to happen to him, ma’am, I should give this to you,” he approached Tevis and placed the small sack upon the console desk and stepped back.

She sat staring at it, wondering why he would have ventured out knowing something might happen to him.  The new arrival was stationary.  “Thank you…,” she said reading his tag… “Percy.”   He turned on the balls of his feet and left.

She took a minute before picking up the sapphire blue bag, gently untying the knot at the top and sliding its contents onto the table.  From within slipped an intricately carved scorpion, a gypsum blade and a note.  How would he have known this? She wondered and then remembered a conversation she had in the canteen not long ago with Newell seated quietly at the end of the table, listening to her saying to the others that she had one cycle to go and couldn’t wait to get back to her home in Carefree, AZ, where the only thing she needed to worry about was a scorpion or two.  She unfolded the note and read it, making her smile through tearful eyes:

The scorpion was carved from the soft stone found along the rim of the crater, but you will notice there are no segmented lines engraved onto the abdomen or tail.  For your remaining time here, carve a segment line every twenty days, starting from the head to the tail.  Both your time remaining and the carvings should be met at the same time.  Thank you for your kindness – Irwin.

She picked up the gypsum blade and carved the first two lines into the abdomen and placed the contents back into the sack and sat staring out the window, thinking about Newell and being home.

Second Image:  “Red Velvet Mite” by Judy Gallagher is licensed under CC-BY 2.0. The image that was resized, cropped to fit required size.

AUTHOR’S NOTE:

I started on a triad of shorts, where the idea came from my studies in Ecology, specifically, from The Economy Of Nature by Robert Ricklefs on Species Adaptation.

According to Ricklefs, all species adaptation is driven by their encounter with a variety of environmental factors deriving from one of three sources: 1) Exposure to the Physical and Chemical; 2) Exposure to predators, parasites and prey; 3) And finally, exposure to individuals of the same species.

The first of my shorts addresses the Physical & Chemical aspects of adaptation as is titled, Red Velvet.  My story is based upon the 1962 research of biologists Lloyd Tevis and Irwin Newell of their observations of the Giant Red Velvet mite of the Mojave Desert.  The mites have quite an interesting life cycle, where they migrate to the surface once a year to eat, mate, and for their larvae to find a host.   The story takes place on the exoplanet, J147b, where a new arrival (Newell), is trying to impress his female mentor (Tevis) and gets stranded during the yearly migration of red velvet mites to the surface.  If you have any Arachnophobia tendencies, you may want to stop reading, here.  This short may not be for you…. it will make your skin crawl….

As a writer, the part that really excites me is the etymology and origin of taxonomy. The genus and species of the Giant Red Velvet Mite (Dinothrombium pandorae) is the perfect alien for my story.  Dino, is derived from the Greek word, deinos, meaning terrible and Thrombos, a lump or clot.  This particular species is named after Pandora who was sent by Zeus to bring evil to the human race as a counterbalance of Prometheus, disobeying Zeus, who gave the gift of fire to the humans.

Regrets, but one

END OF DAYS SERIES: Regrets, but one.

For other stories in this series, Click Here

“What word of what I just said didn’t you understand?” Deedle said mocking him as she pulled the handgun from her shoulder bag.

“Deedle…. hold on…. put the gun down,” he pleaded rolling back in his chair with nowhere to go.

With a flick of her thumb, the laser-powered scope turned on, and she raised the red dot until it settled between his eyes.

“Don’t do this, Deedle.  I thought you were coming over here to make amends? It was a long time ago. We’re friends now, right? We’ve done business together.  This is crazy… We’re both going to die in a few hours anyway.  I’m sorry…. don’t do this…”

“I’m not going to give you that luxury… you prick….  You don’t deserve to go out with the rest of humanity.” She took aim.

“WAIT!  Just wait! I didn’t have a choice–”

“NO! I DIDN’T HAVE A CHOICE!” She shouted cutting him off as the red dot bounced along his forehead.  She promised herself she wouldn’t lose control of her emotions over this scumbag and needed to prove to him she was no longer the young impressionable nitwit she had been in those days, new to the jewelry trade and too trusting of shitbags the likes of Donald.

Seeing him here, now, brought back thirty years of anger and sleepless nights of reenacted dreams when he claimed to have lost a piece she had loaned him; it had been her most precious piece, a vintage VCA coral and diamond leaf motif brooch worth a little more than eighty-seven grand…. a fortune to her at the time.

“Tell me, Donald…. and if I sense any bullshit… I swear I’ll blow your fucking head off!” It felt good for her to say that out loud having rehearsed this line over and over in her head during her walk along Fifth Avenue to Donald’s office.

An hour earlier, she and everyone on the planet had received a series of public service emergency alerts that a catastrophic solar flare, ten times the diameter of Earth, was heading toward them and there was no chance of survival.  The Internet had become choked with posts of people making amends and being with those they loved.  There was nothing anyone could do.  Instead of rushing home to Dov, she had sat in her office thinking of any regrets she may have had in her life.  There was one.

“What did you do with that piece I loaned you, Donald?”

He looked at her, feigning confusion.

“Donald!  Answer me!” She shouted and dropped her leg back and took straight aim.

“I sold it!” He blurted out.  “I’m sorry, but I needed the money… “

“To whom?” She demanded.

He was stuttering, looking for an answer that wasn’t there. “No-no one you know… please… put the gun away… we can talk about this.”

“You’re lying to me,” she said calmly.  “You always flick the end of your nose when you lie… just like you did right now.” She took aim down the barrel.

“OK, OK, OK… I gave it to Anna Skylovski… Don’t shoot…” he whimpered.

“You were always such a pussy, Donald. I should have known you’d give it to that slut… I hope the blowjob was worth this bullet in your head,” she said closing one eye just before pulling the trigger and for Donald to thrust his hands in front of his face and turn slightly.  The sound was much quieter than she imagined, a single pop.  She looked up to see a hole in his palm and the tip of his nose missing.

FUCK ME!” Donald screamed out as the blood began to gush.  He pulled his bloody hand down and held it, growling through clenched teeth and the bubble of his voice though the tip of his shredded nose.  Beyond him the bullet had exited the picture window, leaving a spider web in the glass.

“Damn! My aim sucks,” she said more to herself than for Donald’s sake.  “Dov insisted I get a gun to protect myself.  He even took me clay shooting, and those fucking orange pigeons went sailing forth unhindered by my bullets… I would have shot you in the balls, Donald, but I now realize you never had any.”  She laughed and raised the gun once more but jumped when the sirens outside screamed out, distracting her long enough for Donald to grab the paperweight from his desk and hurl it, striking her in the forehead and knocking her onto the floor.

She was lying there, still holding the gun when Donald launched over the desk onto her, his good hand pinning the gun to the carpet.

“You stupid bitch,” he screamed inches from her face.  She felt the warmth of his bloodied forearm on her throat as the drip from his nose landed her cheek.  He began to press down.

Her free hand was clutched to the brooch that had come loose from the fall, the long gold pin held in her fingers.  She jabbed him in the temple and felt the pin bend when it hit bone.

He roared out and rolled over onto his back, and Deedle staggered up onto her Jimmy Choos, the gun still hot in her hands.  She wiped her cheek, straightened her suit and brushed the flip of her hair to the side while the sirens outside continued at a deafening pitch.  The end was coming.

Donald pushed himself up against the front of his desk, defeated.  “Get it over with. Do it.  Do me the favor of not having to see your fucking face as my last image. DO IT!

Deedle raised the gun and held it steady, the red dot settling between his eyes.  She was breathing heavily, and her head ached.  She looked into his eyes that were filled with hatred, and she began to laugh.  She was laughing so hard it drew Donald in as he closed his eyes and laughed achingly with her.

She wanted to pull the trigger, but the reservoir of revenge felt half full, and she didn’t want this to end, on his terms, so she lowered the gun and pulled the trigger and miraculously hit his knee.  A black dot appeared on his pant leg, and he screamed out once more, a primordial guttural, “FUCK YOU” through threads of red spittle tethered from his bloodied lips.

The reservoir had drained, and she raised the gun, held her breath, and pulled the trigger.  Another pop and beyond the sights of the barrel a black dot appeared on his forehead as if that was all that bullets did was to create black dots.  A crimson ribbon began to drip between his eyes and along his nose where it bowed like a strand of silk onto his chest.

“No, Donald… Fuck You,” she said under her breath and lobbed the gun into his lap.

She was smiling to herself in the mirrored walls of the elevator, primping and wiping his blood from her face and throat until the courtesy ping of the elevator notified her she had reached the lobby.   The doors opened, and she stepped out onto the worn marble floors with the echo of her heels the only sounds she heard as she walked toward the revolving doors that opened to the street.

Everything seemed so surreal; it was a beautiful day with not a soul in sight.  Everyone who was, were where he or she needed to be.  Deedle walked Fifth Avenue toward her Upper East Side apartment, not drawn in by the windows of Christian Louboutin or lured through the open doors of St. Patrick’s by the sobering choir of voices within.  She walked past Bergdorf’s without admiring the window displays and was amazed not to see crowds gathered around the Apple Store.  Why couldn’t it always be like this?  She thought to herself as she headed along the park with the dogwoods in bloom and over the wall in the fields beyond, horses with tiaras were grazing on the chartreuse of grass — their handsome cab owners having set them free.  She couldn’t remember the last time she walked home from work and took note of all the shops and cafes she had never been to or had known to exist.

With the crosstown walk behind her, she stopped to admire the tower of her apartment building and the duplex apartment at the top, a symbol of her success.  She thought back to the countless dinner parties out on the terrace, her love of the kitchen and cooking, the smells of fresh biscotti on the oven sheets with Dov always stealing one before they cooled.  She had some great times there, and those thoughts filled her with happiness.

It felt odd opening her own door to the lobby, where Kevin was not there to greet her with his infectious smile, eager to carry her packages no matter how small.  She entered the to its emptiness, where the elevator door at the far end of the lobby was openly awaiting her, an NYC rarity.  She rode up in silence to the penthouse floor and stepping out, the door to her apartment opened before she could remove her key.  Standing in the doorway was Dov in his tuxedo holding two glasses of champagne.

Noticing the bruise on her forehead and smear of blood on her cheek, throat, and blouse, he asked nonchalantly, “Tough day at the Batcave, Batgirl?”

“You should see the other guy…” she huffed and dropped her bag to the floor as she reached for her glass and kissed him hard on the lips.  “Come on Batman…. we’ve got some messing around to do before the world ends. Hopefully, this solar flare thing is not fake news, or I will have some serious explaining to do in the morning….”

 

For other stories in this series, Click Here

When sci-if meets science (Silversides)

Real Science inspires SciFi

This is exactly what I have been looking for in a the mask that my characters in the novel, Silversides, wear when they first land on Gliese 581 g to protect themselves against biologicals they yet do not have immunities for. It is so awesome to finally have a clear image, which makes writing a bit easier. The real science fiction is behind the concept of this mask, an artist’s rendition, of the research coming out of Denmark for a new material synthesized from cobalt to extract and store oxygen eliminating the need of oxygen tanks.   Now back to editing….

Excerpt from Silversides: Chapter Five

Kulcn stepped out from the shuttle with the bleed of oxygen rushing past him, the last of Earth’s oxygen as it diffused into the atmosphere. He paused to read the input on the lens before descending the ramp, and by the time his boots touched the ground the white microtiles of his suit and mask had turned a charcoal black to match the color of the sand. The other Silversides followed, their suits fluxing from the bottom up as if they had walked into a pool of black ink.

Under Eden

END OF DAYS SERIES: Under Eden

For other stories in this series, Click Here

Photo by Mark Lynch

“Shite, that was close.”

From the impact, the sky had lit up so bright we could see clearly down the street with its neatly parked cars, perfectly aligned like the teeth of a zipper. But no one was out and no lights came on in any of the homes; our neighbors had all moved to the underground.

 

 

When we go we want to taste the air and see the sun going down and not have the taste of someone else’s exhale lingering in our mouths or staring up at a filament, waiting for it to extinguish and be left alone in darkness with only our fear leaning in.  The underground was not for us, but I suppose for those who have chosen to stay below, there is something to be said for not knowing or seeing the end coming.

For us above, we enjoy free rein of the big box stores and the design outlets to get all the lumber, tools, and furniture needed to build a roof deck on our flat… something I had always wanted to do for my family but never had the funds to do it.  It’s bittersweet under these circumstances, but our roof deck rocks.  We have a full working tiki-bar and a well stocked drinks cupboard up here with unobstructed views of the sunsets.  And the sunsets have been magnificent lately, even knowing the colors are fed by the ash of every living thing that was incinerated from an impact.

We have allowed our fifteen-year-old daughter, Louise, to drink alcohol along with us, enjoying these last days together as a family.  Tonight’s concoction of a drink is a Commet-Kaze, but instead of Triple Sec we used Orange Curaçao– stuff we could never afford but is now readily available at the off-license… free of charge of course.  Honestly, I hope the end comes soon because we are running out of clever drink names.   My youngest, Alec, is a space nut.  When we had a family vote to stay above or go under, he was the most vocal of staying above; he wanted to see what was coming.  For the record, it was unanimous, we all wanted to stay above.  A weird lot we are.

Ever since the announcement that Earth would pass directly into a catastrophic asteroid storm, spelling out the end for us all,  Alec has been glued to his kit of computers and monitors lined up on the dining table. Seated upon his newly acquired oversized luxury office chair with his feet dangling, he has been tracking everything coming in; it’s like having the ESA in our sitting room.  He has informed us that the impact we just saw was an 8 on the Torino Scale with a low MT potential… whatever that means.    He said if it had been a 9 we would have been okay but we would have had to remain inside for a while, but if it had been a 10, well, that would have been a bit of a damp squib.

Louise has been on a mission every day now, looking for pet stores to liberate or following the barking or meowing of dogs and cats left abandoned in their homes. When we find them,  we open the doors, cages and pet food.  We even take the freshwater fish to a freshwater canal or pond and take the saltwater fish to the sea, but we need to check in with Alec before going there in case an 8 or 9 hits off the coast creating a tsunami.

My wife, Jenny, has been a rock through all this.  Me, well, when you have loved someone for eighteen years, every day as much as the first, someone you would instinctively put your own life before theirs… well… I can’t think about that right now.  It’s been a long day.  We’re off to bed.

We were awakened by the alarms from Alec’s monitoring alerts, Jenny and I still in a tangle with the lingering scent of our lovemaking around us.   We knew the drill.  If this was going to be the one to take us out, we wanted to be together through to the end.  Jenny would gather up Louise, as I headed down the steps to the sitting room to find Alec inches away from the monitors, the screen data reflecting off his specs as he nibbled away on a biscuit from Marks & Sparks.  Now that we were directly in the path of the storm, Alec has been sleeping here on the couch under a litany of graphs and hand drawn eclipses of near misses and impacts, looking for the one that will do us in.  He never had a passion for sport or music and had always been a bit of a loner with his technical books and sci-fi pulp fiction, but this makes him happy, happier than I have ever seen him.  So be it.  The kit he put together came from the Apple Store and smaller bits and PC shops down the block.  I’m not sure of what his kit does, but he seems to know of inbounds before anyone in his circle of plusers does.  Lucky us.

“Alec.  What does your crystal ball show?” I said coming up behind him, making sure to slide my slippers on the floorboards so as not to startle him.

“Daddy, you should see this one. It’s big.  A 10 with a high MT.” he said not turning away from the screens.

I stooped over his shoulder, trying to see what he was seeing, but all I could make out was a ball of multicolored elastics knowing somewhere beneath it all was Earth.

“Hmmmm….” was the most meaningful response I could come up with.

“This is the one,” he said without the slightest doubt and proud that his forecasts have always proved to be spot on.

I palmed the mop of his hair, thankful he got the hair gene from his mum. “Let’s get up on the roof then,” and I helped him into his pullover hoodie with the phrase, Waiting For The Asteroid, written in front.

“I’m very proud of you, Alec.”  I said reaching down to zip him up, tucking the hoodie around his ears to keep out the chill.  When we got to the roof, Jenny had the mushroom heaters going and a hot tea for me in hand.   We sat close together on the outdoor furniture, our overly fluffy slippers up on the ottomans while passing the tin of peanut butter shortbreads, from Luigi Zuck.  This was our routine; no one should have to go out without the finest shortbreads at hand.

“See it!” Alec said jumping up and almost losing his glasses.

It started as a white dash in the night, elongating and brightening as it raced toward us.

“It’s traveling at 24.360 Kilometers per second,” Alec said.  He moved to the edge of the deck, leaning over with his hands on the rail, then looked back at us with a child’s innocence.

I reached over and pat Jenny on the knee.  “He’s right about this one.”  And stood up to join my son at the railing, my arm draped around his tiny shoulders, pulling him tight.  I was proud of him and he knew it. Jenny led Louise to the railing, standing beside me as I reached for her hand and felt the wedding ring I had slipped onto her finger eighteen years ago.  We looked up at the dash in the sky, its cobalt blue tail under a gown of white forming a cone.  It was beautiful, I had to admit, like a slow moving shuttlecock entering the atmosphere.  Then from the tip of the cone, the object projected outward, a second stage, plunging into the lower atmosphere and growing brighter, affording us a clear look down the entire block of flats as if it were daybreak.

“Shades down everyone.” And I helped Alec with his before my own.  It was bright, even through the welding goggles we were wearing. I knew Jenny was looking over at me and I turned to see her smile beneath the dark lenses.

“Don’t think you’re getting your back scratched, tonight,” she said as a statement of relief.

I laughed. “It’s been wonderful, Jen.” and I leaned in for a kiss, her head tilting to the side, her lips slightly parted and I knew her love for me and I for her would never dim.  As we kissed, we drew in Alec and Louise.  There is something to be said for the human spirit, something that feels it will never extinguish, even where it can’t exist.

Author’s Note:  This third short was inspired by a fellow G+’er, Mark Lynch (Lynchy), who lives in London and posted a beautiful sunset of his street. It moved me and I knew the story to come with it belonged here. Thanks Mark for the image and please extend a thanks to your  lovely wife for the ‘squib’ reference… I’m still laughing……

For other stories in this series, Click Here

Cover

Photo - Mark Hurn

Photo – Mark Hurn

COVER

Diagraphy: 2046.06.18:

I come from a lineage of great surfers dating back to the 21st century on Earth. My name is MoonDoggie, a name one of my French ancestors had given to her first born son, a name that could not be repeated for ten generations; so that would be, me.

I was no one special until a botTOG, named Hurn, rec’d a clip of me free falling down the face of Phaedra 18-C. It was on a dare and I was attempting a slide-in backside on a hotMELT.  But things didn’t go as planned and I had separated from the hotMELT and did a slomo vertical 360 but managed to get it all back together as if I had planned it that way.   Hurn’s clip made me famous as faraway as Sagittarius-Carina and I was splashed onto the cover of sineWAVE.  These days, I can’t hit a break where someone or something doesn’t yell out, “Hey MoonDoggie! I dare you….” And that’s when the shit happens. And it’s weird shit.

The baggage that comes with notoriety has been mounting, so much so that my traveling buds are few and I don’t blame them; there’s a circus of bots chasing me these days, hoping to land the next cover and galactic stream.  They’re as reckless as the razor scarabs you’d find at Noah’s Cove on Xeries; don’t open your mouth or they’ll find their way in and punch out your chest. My late friend, Oyen, had found that out the hard way.  These days I travel solo.

So here I am on Cyan-B, having used the last remaining koins earned from that clip to get me here, bouncing my way through a couple of tokamak gateways, then knowing a guy who knew a dude running calibrations on a neckerCube who got me the last jump all the way back to the Orion Spur. The dude had also provided me some bogus metaProfs to use as chaff just before the last jump to throw off any botTOGs shadowing me.  Guess it worked, not a one in sight.

It looks like Twig’s forecast had been spot on, the surf looks awesome, and as far as I know it’s the first time anyone has ever been here.  I didn’t find out why until after I landed and read through the hyperLogs; turns out there’s a large amplitude dark matter wave just outside Joule, the binary star system I’m in, and my chances of successfully having gotten through that without being ripped to pieces, was like… well… one out of every 3.14.  Lucky, lucky, lucky me.  I must be down to five lives now. Getting out in one piece might drop me to four.

 

There’s a feeling only surfers get when coming across a virgin break and here I am… staring out at one. The fact is, I’ve never surfed in water; I mean Earth-like water, H2O with a salinity of 33 ppm. But this is why I had dragged an oldie from Earth, a 5.8 FocusFlex, quad-fin, V2 by DaveySky. This stick had been handed down through the generations and hasn’t been used since it was custom carved for the first MoonDoggie back in 2017.  And there are very specific conditions to be met prior to its use:

  • White powdery sands [check]
  • Turquoise water [check]
  • Suns overhead without a cloud in the sky (ok, the kit mentions just one sun) [check]
  • Surface water and air temperature holding at or above 80F [check]
  • Shoulder to head-high right point-break [check]
  • Light offshore breeze [check]

I’m using it.

It actually felt good with the suns on my back and my feet buried into the sand as I read through the manual, which had all sorts of crazy vids associated with it, like: paddling, posture, duck-dives, pop-ups, drop-ins, cut-backs, aerials, etiquette, you name it.  This should be a space-walk for me.

Step One: Attach leash.  Running down the beach with a leash around my ankle ( a crazy relic of the past)  was constantly tripping me.  Why they used these things remains a mystery.  I mean, isn’t that why magPads were invented?  

Step Two: Get Stocked.  Reaching the water I shouted out at the top of my lungs, “I’m Stoked!” Whatever that means, but apparently it was a phrase my ancestors had used before hitting the waves. I’m glad no one was around to hear me, but who cares, the only person here, is me.  

Step Three: Enter water.  It felt weird to be in contact with water, and the board shorts that came with the kit look and feel ridiculous on me.

I have followed all the instructions, all the way down to using the sex wax of the deck.  Sex wax?

Seek out and have fun with Nature,’ were the last words written in the kit.  So who is this Nature?

After performing my first successful duck-dive, watching the barrel roll over me, I surfaced and felt the heat of rotors raking me from above.

“Hey wormhole!  Watch it!”

Hovering above me was a girl on a slat wearing full skins and a lens.  

Shit! Where did she come from?

I could tell from the tilt of her head that behind the lens she was giving me a look.  She throttled up, the spray blinding me momentarily.  When I could finally see, it was too late.  I got pummeled by the next wave in the set.

By the time I got out beyond the break, my arms were spent and the girl had already caught the next two sets. So much for virgin break.  I was anxious to catch a wave, but waited patiently just like the kit had instructed me to do. I was to ‘chill’ here for a time, letting the first set roll beneath me, a gift to Nature. This Nature was starting to piss me off.  

Never having ridden an oldie before, the biggest hurdle was perspective.  I was not comfortable being so near the surface, let alone in the surface. How could anyone see what was coming? The kit instructed me to look for a dark blue line on the horizon, indicating an outside set was coming in. Seriously? But there it was, a dark blue line appearing on the outside. I kept paddling until I could see the set rolling in.  I’ll be damned… It was a huge set..  Now I was instructed to sit up on the board–a bit wobbly– and rotate toward the beach.  As the wave neared, I was to grab the tip of the board, lean back and push it down under me, then let it pop back up and forward, giving a nice boost into the wave. Slick. That actually worked and I wondered if I could do the same on my hotMELT? I kept my back arched, like the kit instructed, cupped my hands and stroked alternately until momentum took over.  Dude, that was awesome and I knew the rest would be easy as I popped up and dropped….. in…. on the girl with the slat, knocking her off into the water, the leash around my ankle yanking us up into the wave as the ceiling pitched us over, my ribs hitting down hard on the board. We were in a tangle but I managed to reach down and grab her by the waist then followed the leash to the surface after the wave had passed.  Ah…. that’s where the leash comes in. Smart. She was coughing hard and sucking in air as the next wave closed out on top of us, then once again by the third wave in case we hadn’t received enough punishment from the first two. When I came up, she was floating face down with her lens off but still within reach.  I rolled her up and onto my board, enough so I could peel back her skins and breath air into her. Finally she spit up into my mouth, sucked in and coughed up more water, but by then we were near enough to shore for me to stand. I lifted her over my shoulder, the leash dragging my board onto the beach where I dropped down onto my knees and rolled her out onto the sand.  I made sure she was still breathing before I collapsed onto my back.  My hair was matted over my eyes and my eyes were caked with sand.  I had sand in places I didn’t know sand could get into.  But the worse was hearing and feeling the sand crunching in my teeth, sending electric chills down my spine. If that wasn’t bad enough, that’s when the punches started.

“YOU PLASMA SCUM!” she screamed in rhythm to her punches “ARE YOU MISSING SOME BITS?”

She momentarily stopped and was looking out over the cove for her slat.  WHERE IS IT?  WHERE’S MY SLAT?”

I didn’t have time to answer the first question before more punches followed, punches that I could hardly see coming. If it wasn’t for her state of weakness it could have been a lot worse, but I managed to grab hold of her wrists and keep her still, until she straddled me and drove her knee up into my groin. These board shorts are for shit. Fortunately the pain was so intense my forehead shot up into her temple and that was the last thing I could remember.

We came to around at the same time. She was rubbing the side of her head with her hair and face plastered with sand.  I sat up with my arms propped up in back of me.

“Are you, Nature, by any chance?” I asked.

She gave me a sideways look.  “No you warp…” she replied. “Are you, Stoked?”

View From My Kitchen

END OF DAYS SERIES: View From My Kitchen

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Image by Ann Swanson

They said it would come, that it would start with a sunset of such unbelievable beauty it would bring tears to your eyes.  They were right. It was quiet. Eerily quiet.  No bird chirps or the whine of motorboats speeding across the lake. No one in their back yards, no joyous shrieks of children chasing fireflies, no smell of fire-pits and no sound of car tires rolling down the crushed stone roads, eager to get to their weekend camps.  Everyone was down in their last-minute shelters with not enough supplies to outlast what was about to unfold.

My children, grand children, friends and neighbors begged me to come with them into the town’s shelter.  But why miss the last sunset one would ever see.  Where was there to go?  Nowhere.  It would take ten-thousand years just for the fires to burn out, and the only reason they would extinguish would be due to the absence of oxygen left on Earth.
I know it might seem selfish–that I should spend the end of days surrounded by family and friends–but I just wanted to spend it in my kitchen, overlooking the lake where I can see the memories of my grandchildren out on the dock, their silhouettes with fishing poles matching the paintings in my home .  So here I stand, glass of Chardonnay in hand and raising it to the sky, thankful I was given this sliver of time to see and experience this magnificent world and hoping my next journey will be as spectacular. Cheers.

Author’s Note: This short was inspired by a friend’s profile picture update on Facebook (Ann).  Although my interpretation is a bit dark and not what she intended.  Thanks, Ann….  it is a beautiful image.  Then I thought about building a collection of shorts based upon the End Of Days told through the eyes of the people who wrote them.    Enjoy.

 

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Alien sound coming from Mariana Trench

trenchOriginally reported by The Sun, Researches picked up an alien sound while their hydrophone was over the Mariana Trench.  Although whale like in nature, it does not quite fit the patterns of what researchers already know. To listen to this sound,  Click here.  Initially, they thought it might be a mating call from whales, but they are thrown off by hearing this sound year round.

There was a follow-up piece on Wired,

The mystery of the ‘alien call’ deep in the Mariana Trench is solved

which seems to indicate it is a Baleen Whale…. but the article does end with… “more data needed….. ”

It does make for good Sci-Fi, especially now that I have been working on a treatment called HUM, which is about an alien life-form that was attracted to Earth by its sound.   Yes, yes, I know… sound does not travel through space… but other signals do and who is to say what wavelengths aliens can hear.