Fenrir

Fenrir

“Fenrir, jam all outgoing signals and patch that in.” The message started with the familiar Strix United jingle and the main screen on the bridge went blue.

“No! Kill the video feed, show me the transcript!” Captain Rains’ orders overwrote the AI’s standard routines, and it did as it was told. The message projected unto the analysis screen. It started scrolling down as he read it. “HA!” He slapped the console in a fit of joy. “Gotcha, Wong.” The AI encrypted the message again and took it from the screen.

The captain leaned back in his seat and was very much pleased with what was coming. He closed his eyes and started thinking of all the gruesome details of his revenge. A smile slowly sprawled over his face, like the legs of a bird spider.

“Fenrir, start recording the signals broadcasted on the designated frequencies. Bounce Paine out of his bunk, and make me coffee.” Rains yawned and ruffled his blonde hair. He started thinking that he’d never get the chance to redeem himself. “Revoke all level B 20 permissions for Brack’s ID. Remove his login-history and cancel his pending requests. I won’t have him butting in.”

“Yes, sir,” the AI answered in a flat tone. The coffee machine came to life snorting and gargling like a choking man.

Minutes later a tall shadow, Lieutenant Paine, appeared in the doorway bubbling drunken zombie words. “Swhyamupnwhuusresponsble.” Rains pointed to the brewing machine. “Thankgd,” he shuffled towards the coffee, arms stretched out to welcome the dark burnt scent.

“I’m bored.” Rains said, as if to himself. Paine turned around eyeballing his captain. “Aren’t you sick of being stuck out here, freezing your dick off? Wanna go for a hunt instead?” That got his attention, he forgot his curled fingers in front of the full coffee can.

“Any hook?” Paine swallowed, they were Sleipnir’s emergency backup, but he was definitely interested. The captain behaved quite unusual, for the first time in six months, he seemed genuinely happy about something. Never a good sign. He inched his way towards the captain’s seat. Being forced to tail Sleipnir for half a year has been agonizingly boring, he admitted. For the captain it must have been hell, shadowing and monitoring the man who destroyed his life. This was going to be fun.

“No hooks,” Rains smirked, “and no survivors…”

Only hours later, just before virtual sunrise on Fenrir, a distress signal reached the ship, triggering the alarm.

“This is Sleipnir. Fenrir, do you copy? This is an emergency!” The male voice came in over all frequencies.

Rains punched a button and the alarm died.

*

It was dark and cold on the damaged Sleipnir. The AI on the ship scanned the nearest area, tracing every course it would be able to take. It did its best to power the life supporting systems. Both of its humans were safe for now. It calculated the possible surviving ratios and decided not to show the results to its captain.

“They are receiving the message,” it said instead.

Captain Wong bowed his head, buried his face in his palms. This was the worst possible thing to happen.

“Doctor Wellington’s vitals are stable. No signs of internal hemorrhage.” The AI scanned for the other AI in the vicinity. It sat on the northern hemisphere of Vesta, waiting for orders. It would take two hours to get to its current location.

Wong coughed slightly, with the smoke filtering through the ventilation. At least none of them was dying.

Yet. 

“C’mon!” He waited. “Mayday! We had a critical accident!” No answer. Where was the cavalry? Wong’s stomach froze to a hard icy ball. “We need emergency evac! ASAP!” He looked at the unconscious doctor. He hit his head pretty hard. “Our oxygen will last for three hours. Fenrir! DO YOU COPY?” The com remained silent. The instruments showed, that the transmission has been received.

“FENRIR! Dammit!”

*

Captain Rains sat alone in the dawn of the bridge, feet on the com console. He grinned and folded his fingers.

“What will you do now, Wong?” He chuckled softly. Behind him, a door slid open and closed. He felt someone, most likely Paine, move through the darkness. That was a man to his taste, a bad soldier but a good mercenary. Rains harrumphed and manned the mic.

“Fenrir here. That’s a no-can-do. Make yourselves comfy, cause that’s where you’re gonna stay.” Fenrir’s AI showed a simulation of Sleipnir’s position on the main screen. “We meet again, Wong.”

A gasp filled the air and the aether. “Rains? Is that YOU?!”

“Captain!” Brack shouted from wherever he was running towards the bridge. “Captain! Emergency!” His thumping feet nearly reached the doors. “Captain!” With a whoomph he seemed to collide with it. Rains rolled his eyes and sighed. The door skid open and a big hunched over shadow panted in the doorway.

“This is a distress signal. DAMMIT! MOVE YOUR ASSES OVER HERE!” Wong screamed.

“What did I tell you about second encounters?” Rains asked casually into the mic. Over his left shoulder Paine’s hand held out a cup of steaming coffee.

“Donno, I wasn’t listening. I was busy humping your mom!” Wong barked. The low growl in his voice couldn’t hide his despair.

“This is payback.” Rains shook his head. He took the cup and was surprised it was one of Paine’s.

“Captain, why are we ignoring emergency calls?” Brack breathed horrified.

“Stop pissing.” Rains stared into Brack’s confused face. Scans showed the vital damage to Sleipnir. Paine poked a finger at the analysis screen. “That’s their problem!“

 

 


pic: from movie: Prometheus

green goes great with bruises

  • content warning / HWWF 2015 assignment

     

     

“Nice” Mary licked her lips with concentration. She bowed down over her right hand. “Careful now.” She whispered to herself.

The nail polish brush stroked evenly over the arch of her right middle finger. The creamy butter yellow of the coffee table clashed with the sparkling aquamarine of her nails.

The dull metronome on the kitchen wall ticked away a bit too loud. Shabby thing, she thought. The new photo wallpaper of King’s Cross Station, she put up herself, didn’t go well with the white and green porcelain clock. Mike brought it back from some garage sale. Yesterday she saw a golden rimmed station clock on the shopping channel. That would go just fine.

On the big TV screen, Emily Garner’s Jewelry Show flickered on mute. Pearl earrings and pendants waltzed into full shot. Mary leaned back and chuckled. Those earrings were pricier when she bought them last week. „Ha!” She felt lucky, hunting down the best bargains. That was her world. She could start as a pro-shopper. That’d be a great job, her dream job, in fact. Being the wife of a private eye was boring her out of her mind. Mike was nice, but never glamorous, or mysterious. Mediocre at best. The last time he wore a smoking was at their wedding.

The keys chimed as her husband rammed them into the lock of the entrance door.

„Home, hon!” Mike’s voice disturbed Mary in her admiration for the peridot pendant on the screen. She turned up the volume.

„Kaaay!” She said, eyes glued to the TV.

„Dinner?” Mike asked head poking into the living room, but Mary didn’t answer. After waiting several seconds he went investigating the kitchen instead. Nothing. The stove was cold, and there was nothing prepared in the fridge. The freezer was stuffed with frozen lasagna, and something that looked like mac’n cheese. “Dammit, Mary.” He closed the freezer and sighed. He had enough of these kind of welcomes. He felt like someone had put his head into a bucket full with ice, and his heart on the grill. „Hey, Mary? What’s for dinner?”

„What you order, Mike!” She hollered from the couch. He just stood there, head hung, arms perched on the kitchen counter. He tried to breathe in deeply. This wasn’t what he wanted to come home to. After all those hours in the car, on stakeouts, he longed for something home cooked. For something that could warm him, from the inside, like the thanksgiving dinners his grandma had made.

Mary was different. She ate like a bird, when she wasn’t on some weird diet. Everything to fit into her fancy clothes. She had absolutely no passion for cooking, music, or movies. Everything he loved. The only thing on her mind was money, jewels and fancy clothing. She worked hard for her ideal beauty, that he had to admit. But beauty was only skin deep.

Mike picked up the phone and dialed. „H’lo, yeah. I’d like to order a big pizza. Yeah, uh-huh. Top it with extra cheese, anchovies, olives, onions, salami and bacon.” Mike walked over to his wife, poked her on the shoulder, and pointed a finger to the phone. She shook her head. „Yeah. To 2352, Remington Avenue. Yeah, okay. You too.” Mike put the phone back. He thought of a shower, but decided to have a smoke instead.

Mary didn’t allow him to light a cig inside. It made the curtains yellow, she used to say. Somehow, it was convenient. He wanted out, so he could breathe again. He grabbed the lighter and threw a look at his wife, marveling at some stupid jewelry. Shopping channel. Again. He decided to take a closer look at their bank account. He’d be damned if he missed her addiction, or something. His shoulder leaned against the door, he slowly pushed down the handle.

In the living room, Mary snuggled into the couch cushions. That necklace with jade and gold was breathtaking. Only four hundred ninety nine! They were kidding. So cheap! The dark haired model wore it with a dark green satin robe, with a deep décolleté. She looked astounding. Mary scrambled to get the phone. She dialed.

The entrance door blew open. The sound made her jump, and the phone fell to the ground. „MARY!” Mike roared from the entrance. She stood. He was hunched over, carrying something big and heavy in his arms.

„What the… Stop that! Don’t carry the trash back in!” No! That was a human! It dawned on her the instant she closed her mouth. Dirty sneakers, black jeans, black hoodie, a hand flopped down and dangled lifeless from Mike’s grip. She couldn’t look away.

“Come on! Don’t just stand there!” Mary didn’t move, eyes bulging. “I found him outside, behind the trash cans.” He groaned, the man was heavy.

She scrambled to make room. “Is he… Is he?” She stuttered.

Mike laid him on the couch. “No.” Now she saw, it was a young man, limp and dirty and senseless. Blonde hair, bleeding from several cuts on brows, cheek, nose and mouth. His face was blueish purple on the left side.

„Oh god,” she gasped, hands covering her mouth. Mike turned around looking at her. She’d pass out, if she had time to get worked up.

“Water, towel, peroxide. Now.” She rushed into the bathroom. Mike’s hands seeked for a pulse. His face relaxed, „strong and steady.” He stroked over the man’s brows with his thumbs, then on the jawline. No crepitation, that was good. His hands checked shoulders, elbows, hands. Seemingly okay. Nothing broken, as far as he could see. He pulled the lower eyelids down. White. Eyes rolled back into his skull.

Mary came back with everything he asked for. “Most likely, it’s a nasty concussion. Don’t worry,” the pained expression on her face didn’t ease. He smiled at her. She was pale, her eyes glowed with the fire he used to love. There was a glint of the magic Mary meant, so perfect, so kind and caring. She was still alive in there, just hiding all these years, in the skin of this person he married. He was relieved that it still existed. For a moment, he imagined Mary’s beautiful face and her burning eyes above him, glowing in the darkness, rocking above him… Rocking him. His mouth went dry.

„Hon, I’ll go check outside,” she looked at him anxiously, „please clean him up a bit.” She was just nodding holding tight the bowl with the water. He needed to breathe.

Mary knelt down beside the man. „Why us?” she asked. The man on the couch looked peaceful, like a sleeping child. In fact he seemed to be in his early twenties, a lot younger than she thought. Her fingers wetted the cloth. The smell was overwhelming. Carefully she touched the face. She could tell, it was beautiful, even with dirt caked on his temples and the back of his head. His brows were long, lips arched like a Mongolian reflex bow. Under her hands, the skin became brighter and brighter. She set the bowl down and cupped his bruised cheek with her hand.

His eyes flew open. Green!

That moment broke into her, like a green bottle’d burst into million shards glistening in the sunlight. She gasped. The green focused on her, it begged her barely audible. “Please…” How gorgeous he was… She’d cut herself on that green. How sweet that pain would be! The green hid again behind his eyelids. A tear ran down the bruised cheek. She felt the young man sink back into the softness of unconsciousness. Mary stared in awe. She smiled a little embarrassed smile. She blushed and wondered how anyone could hurt such a lovely being.

She took his hand and squeezed it. “I’ll take good care of you now. Everything is going to be alright.” She whispered into his ear.

stray cat son

This assignment is a scene with two characters, thinking/talking about a third character. In Nr1 it is the point of view of one character, then the second character gets the spotlight.

#1

I imagined the fat headlines, the news reports, the sleek trial.

‚Private eye, Mike Fletcher, brings down corrupt mayor.’

I had only one shot. No one would listen to an old fart like me twice. Ever. I needed a safe place for the evidence. Justice could only be served, if I played my cards right. Huh, I would be famous. Either way…

Ah, my back was killing me. I loved my GTO, but I payed a high toll for these stakeouts. Sitting tight for hours, painful and boring. Not that I wasn’t used to pain or boredom. It tempted me to barge into the mayoral office, guns blazing. Patience wasn’t really my forte, the waiting tore on my nerves. I longed to let my inner Clint Eastwood out.

For a change, I wasn’t alone. I had company.

Benny was sleeping in the passenger seat. Head sunk on his chest, dark hair hanging over his forehead, skinny arms resting in his lap. He looked so peaceful, that I nearly believed the world was a good place. Inside the GTO, it was solid and light and warm. It was alive.

Two month ago, Benny strayed to. I found him behind my bins, the crap beaten out of him. Face bleeding, swollen blue and black. Beyond recognition. No money or ID.

Maybe it was only a case of being at the wrong place at the wrong time. Maybe not. I spent half of my days on the wrong side of the tracks. I understood. It was easy to decide that the boy had enough hard luck. I carried him inside.

Mary, my wife, was at first shocked, then delighted. She started to pamper the kid, obsessed over him. We had no children of our own, so she dumped all of her suppressed love unto him, trying to drown him.

Lucky me, she stopped most of her nagging, busying herself with the needs of a teenage boy. She stopped chewing my ear off, about the house, the job and the money.

Benny said he was eighteen. A lie, but it was okay with me. He claimed he had no home, no family or friends. Surely, he had his reasons. I didn’t ask, and he didn’t tell. Since then, I half expected to find his bed cold and empty, every early morning. But he was there, and he kept being there.

Benny stirred.

A week ago, he begged me, to take him with me on the job. Mary was livid, but the kid stood his ground. She had to give in. There was more to him, than the obviously too young streetwise kid. I knew that, but she only saw the bruised boy in need. Mary whined, that Benny was our God-sent son. She prayed he’d stay forever, and called that her love.

I went with the idea, that he was our stray cat son. He could leave anytime, I wanted him to be free. If that was what he needed… Sometimes it was easy. I knew exactly what I could do to comfort him. A hand on his shoulder, or a hug, sometimes the silence of being left alone.

Usually he fell back on being sad, when he thought no one was looking. He kept himself busy with napping and eating. I always had the feeling, that he tried to catch up on things he missed, like a refugee.

And by night? Hell, I had no idea what he did. I heard the windows open and close. Obviously he snuck out. As far as I was concerned, he could be batman’s sidekick, or a guerrilla gardener or a drug dealer. As long as he came back, I was good.

My cigarette died. Mary smelled the tobacco anyway. I needed a stretch. The car door squealed, as I got out of the GTO.

„What’s up old-timer? Crackin’ somethin’portant?” Benny yawned from the passenger seat.

„Wanna kiss your teeth goodbye, bucko?” Hmpf, called me old-timer. I could kick his ass anytime. Benny stretched in the seat, in his twisted cat manner, letting his joints click loudly. That sound drove me up the walls. „Ugh, stop that!” It sounded spine crawling, like the dry snapping of bones. „Wanna eat?” I asked him. I was hungry too. He nodded.

#2

The birdman behind the counter opened his beak and jarred.

‚What the fuck?’

He grabbed me by the elbow and sent me flying into a deep pit. It hurt. I landed on my back, in a bed of black feathers. It felt sticky, then sharp pain clawed into my limbs. Tiny needles pierced my skin.

‚Ow! Not nice. Hey! Lady! Gimme a hand outta here!’

A woman, very similar to Mary Fletcher stood at the edge of the pit. Or was that a giant bird nest? She smiled.

‚Fuck.’

That was no ordinary smile, so wide! So impossibly wide… With way too many teeth! I swallowed. All teeth. What was that in her hand? A burning match! Oh God! She threw it.

‚NO!

The feathers combusted! My lungs burnt as I inhaled the flames.

‚Mike!’

An iron grip pulled me under the surface.

‚HELP!’

My body and mind plummeted side by side into the blackness of my nightmare. I jolted awake.

‚Okay.’

I was in a car. Nothing burned. Mike’s car.

‚Just breathe.’

He wasn’t in the car. Where was he? I couldn’t move.

‚Calm down!’

Everything was fine. I was okay. No one torched me. I puffed. The air felt hot, smelled of leather and tobacco. I rubbed my face. The shirt Mike gave me was wet. Tongue stuck to my palate, lips hurt, my throat was stinging and dry. Felt like I ate all the dust from the Gobi desert.

Through the dirty windshield, the orange sun shone in. I must have slept nearly the whole day. I saw Mike standing near the open driver’s door.

‚Thank God.’

He did some clumsy stretching. His back must hurt, he groaned. Googling for hours at that stupid house, and the traffic did nothing for your health. Same went for smoking and drinking booze, coffee. Doing drugs, numb the existence… But people did that anyway, didn’t they? And I did that too.

‚Yeah, but why me?’

Man, I wished I wasn’t the one to tell him. Mike would hate me for this. Even I hated me for this.

‚But it’s fuckin’ necessary.’

Yeah. It was… Was there ever a right time for such news?

‚No, never…’

I tried to tell him a couple of times during the week. But how did you tell someone you liked, that his wife was cheating on him? Beyond that, she loathed him, she hated everything he said, owned or did. I swallowed.

How to tell, that Mary deliberately walked in on me, while showering. That she tried to touched me, to kiss me, to seduce me. She snuck into my bed, when I slept. I wouldn’t stay any longer with her alone in that house.

‘No… Just yank that patch off. Fast. Easy.’

It’d hurt anyway. I couldn’t bring myself to break Mike’s heart. He loved her. He said it so many times before. He was lucky being married to her.

‚Yeah, lucky like a man having a rusty knife rammed between his ribs.’

He told me the stupid nauseating story about how they met and how they kissed. Romantic bullshit. I’d never understand that. And if I kept it to myself?

‚Wrong! And you know it.’

Mike’s face was pale and tired. He deserved the truth. I had to repay him somehow for the kindness. For everything he had done for me. I owed him that. At least.

He never asked any questions. He was there, patiently waiting for me to begin with my story.

„What’s up old-timer? Crackin’ somethin’portant?” I was hungry. He leant down, supporting himself forearms on the door and car top, and grinned.

„Wanna kiss your teeth goodbye, bucko?” As if he’d ever be able to catch me. Ha! I stretched more and my joints clicked into place. „Ugh, stop that!” But I wasn’t done with stretching. “Wanna eat?” I nodded.

almost friends

almost friends

– 1 –

I slouched on my bunk and stared at the ceiling hologram revolve. It was the boiling ocean throwing itself against the rocks of some shore. It was Kageshima’s time to watch the sea. In about one hour I would change it to the starry night sky over the Sonoran Desert. This was relax time, after a 25 hour shift on the transporter taking us to the mining regions in the asteroid belt.

With us I meant, Ivanov, Rico, Kageshima and me. Captain Rizzo would remain on board. Five men wedged into a tin can floating through the black emptiness of the space, heading towards some expensive rocks and dirt. The journey we just started would take seven months.

Kageshima was moving, and I watched him start his tai chi exercises. Eyes closed, concentrating on his movements, his muscles worked under his soft skin. I pulled my prosthetic leg in, so he’d have enough space.

I heard he had a fight with drunk Rizzo. It ended with calling names and a bloody nose. No doubt it was self defense on Kageshima’s behalf.

Rizzo was doing the job for over twenty years, and he was lonely. The booze must’ve killed enough neurons that he’d try to hit on Kageshima. On a ship like this, there wasn’t much else to do than drinking, and facing the one eyed snake. And Kageshima had a distinctly feminine appearance, small and slender, long lashes over dark almond eyes. That old fart went insane over any trace of feminity.

“You’re officially classified as liquid, Kintaro.” I told him, and decided to watch his back from now on. Rizzo wouldn’t dare to pick a fight with me. I’d break him in half, with my pinky. 

“Sumimasen, sorry?” He turned to me confused.

“You move like a bengalese tiger.” I stated and meant to be appreciative. Kageshima pulled a sour face instead.

“Ian, don’t say that.” Did I hit a nerve? Why was he stressed? “Did Jefferson set you up? He did, didn’t he?” His black eyes glistened, his cheeks boiled. 

“Rico?” I shook my head. “What do you mean? Set up?”

“Nothing in special, just curious.” Kageshima lied. He was bad at it! Why would he lie? What was wrong? “You two know each other for long?” He asked carefully. I had the feeling that I needed to be wary, for some reason. Kageshima sat down, beside me.

“Well, yes. We already worked for five years together. On Gorgo Beta. A mining ship. He saved my life.” I patted my prosthetic left leg. “I was sent out to repair one of the giant waldos, and Rico was instructing me. Somehow, I got my security line tangled up in the hydraulics, and when the gear slammed back into motion, the gripper went online… You can imagine. It caught and yanked me into the grinder mechanism.” I tapped my left prosthetic arm and eye. “It tore my arm from its socket, ripped my leg straight off.” Kageshima’s eyes lock on mine.

“So… Rico’s your best friend.” It sounded flat, as if he was stating it to himself. He looked at me and smiled. It was a sorrowful smile, the saddest I ever saw on a man’s face.

“Yeah…” That was a strange reaction. “Come on, he’s the funniest guy. You’ll like him, once you get to know him.” I tried, but Kageshima stood up.

“Let’s talk later, Ian.” He said and resumed his exercises.

– 2 –

There was a killer on board. I had seven month to unravel his identity and to pin him down. I went through the received data from the ministry. The profiles of Rico Jefferson and Ian Dervall were promising. I could rule Ivanov and Rizzo out, after today’s incident. Rizzo really thought I’d be defenseless. He won’t make the same mistake again.

I shared my room with Dervall, a huge afro-american cyborg with sand colored eyes. He occupied the lower bunk, I had the upper. A quiet man, with the average of ten words and two facial expression a week.

My first thought upon meeting him was, that he was Jefferson’s brute lap dog. The way he followed him everywhere, like a shadow. Gaining his trust was most important. I started with him, and see where it takes me.

I knew he and Jefferson had a history together. They worked for five years on the same mining ship, most likely side by side. It was that time, when Dervall had his accident, leaving him a ruin of a human being. I’ve read the log data and the surveillance feed transcript on that accident. It was fishy. Someone had it altered. I wondered why though…

On the ceiling, the ocean hurled and splashed against rocks. It was the comfort holo for the passengers, designed to keep us happy. Depression was common during these long flights. I chose it to soothe Dervall’s alertness to my actions. Monotony was a cyborg’s weak spot.

I used the time for tai chi, to let my thoughts fly. A clear mind is a most effective mind. “You’re officially classified as liquid, Kintaro.” Dervall said. I mustn’t let him know that I was capable of killing him with bare hands. My moves could betray me.

“Sumimasen, sorry?” I managed.

“You move like a bengalese tiger.” He added a gummy full teeth smile. Did he see through?

“Ian, don’t say that.” I hoped not. It’d be very inconvenient if he sussed me. “Jefferson set you up? He did, didn’t he?” I tried.

“Rico?” He shook his head confused. “What do you mean? Set up?”

“Nothing in special, just curious.” I thought of his pain and suffering. I sat down on his bed. “You two know each other for long?” I looked at what was left of him, lining of scar-tissue ripping his perfect dark skin to ribbons, stitched up with nearly skin tone prosthetics.

“Well, yes. We already worked for five years together. On Gorgo Beta. A mining ship. He saved my life.” He patted his prosthetic leg. “I was sent out to repair one of the giant waldos, and Rico was instructing me. Somehow, I got my security line tangled up in the hydraulics, and when the gear slammed back into motion, the gripper went online… You can imagine. It caught and yanked me into the grinder mechanism.” What if that wasn’t an accident? What if it was a cover up for something else? Dervall tapped his left arm and eye. “It tore my arm from its socket, ripped my leg straight off.” Did he even remember how it happened? I doubted that.

In his eyes, I could only see the dullness of a man under heavy medication. “So… Rico’s your best friend.”

“Yeah…” He furrowed his brows. “Come on, he’s the funniest guy. You’ll like him, once you get to know him.” I bet! Something told me that Jefferson was a dangerous man. I had to be very careful about this.

I stood up. “We’ll talk later, Ian.” My body went on with the exercises, but my mind raced.


This short story was an assignment for HWWF 2015. The task was to interpret a dialogue from two different points of view, and that the characters talk about a person not present, lighting two different sides of that absent character.

bad faith

bad faith

*

I couldn’t wait for the wonderful taste of coffee in my mouth, even if it came from the vending machine. The first sip burnt my tongue and palate. I killed my tastebuds. Again.

I needed that hot, bitter, liquid bliss to keep me awake, so I won’t miss my bullet train. Destination? Kazakhstan, a strip of godforsaken blood and kerosine soaked land, the New I.C. Baikonur.

I got hired by Strix United for a top secret job. My paycheck was going to kick my last year’s paycheck’s ass.

Continue reading “bad faith”

fabricate news

fabricate news
PART 1 / PART 213.th October 2218; REUTERS, The United Regions Tribune:

“… The NASA – STRIX UNITED Franchise proudly announced, at a specially issued press conference, that  on Thursday, the first manned aircraft successfully circumnavigated Neptune. Using radically new technology, Cp. M. Rains caught up and overtook the fastest cyclone in the solar system, dubbed Scooter…“

Oscar sat in his dark living room and listening to the rain washing the pavement and his window. It was a gentle rain, sad and persistent. His bags were packed. Everything he possessed stored away in cardboard boxes between crumpled up newspapers. The storage space has been paid for five years. 

He was sipping his beer. Last can. The box with Chinese takeout food steamed on the coffee table. A pair of chopsticks beside it, ready to be unpacked and used. Two days to go. He was leaving the city.

It made him swallow hard. He was leaving the continent.

He had an exclusive contract with Strix, he had been hired right from the academy. He was leaving the planet.

This was important. No! It was top secret. He was leaving the inner solar system.

He thought of his thesis, and the disappointment in his father’s eyes. It wasn’t bad, but… He hated what his mentor thought about it. The young offspring of a rich family, all famous doctors. He must have talked to his father about it. The thesis was mediocre, satisfactory at best. Oscar knew that, of course he did. He wrote his thesis in two weeks, his work had been sloppy, lazy and careless. It didn’t seem important.

Another sip from the can. The beer was a bit warmer than he liked it. The liquid washed away the bitterness on his tongue. Replaced it with another kind of bitterness. An easy bitterness, easy to wipe away with fast-food, or cigarettes… Or women, maybe men. And of course, there always was gum.

His breath made little vapor clouds, they were barely visible. He felt the heat rising from his stomach to his cheeks. With one foot he nudged the coffee table aside, he wanted to smash it.

Suddenly he felt so unbelievably hungry.

SCOOTER

SCOOTER

The screen flickered to life. A simulation of the landscape hidden under the thick blue methane and helium clouds unraveled itself. My custom navigation grid stretched over it, and listed all promising magnetic anomalies in the partially viscous crust. Areas of seismic instability stretched further into the polar regions. That was what the analysis program showed me in the lower right corner. I threw out my right index and thumb and the writing faded away. I did not plan to stick around to witness any crust activity.

Through the bull’s eye the surface seemed so peaceful and lush blue. It reminded me of Earth. The upper atmosphere showed a relievo ribbon of white clouds further to north to our orbiting position.

What bothered me most were the atmospheric pockets and the wind velocity, unpredictable and vicious. Even the CPU had problems showing me depressurization timely. Scooter was approaching faster than the simulations showed. Something was off. I had less time than calculated. That peacefully looking blue under me was deadly. It was ready to tear me and my glider to shreds. If anything went wrong, I could only hope for a fast death. Continue reading “SCOOTER”