JUNE FLASH FICTION WINNER


Sorry for the delay, this has been a hectic month.

Congratulations to David M. Hoenig, winner of the June Flash Fiction Contest. His prize is publication on the eSpec Blog and a digital copy of the eSpec Books title of his choice.

The flash fiction contest will resume in August with Mythic.


WITH A SMILE
David M. Hoenig

“C’mon, brother!  I overheard the Captain and Arsenault saying it’s the hottest place on the station.”

“But, yanno, is it safe, Gord?”

Gordon Blaive stared incredulously at his shipmate just outside the neon-lit club, Rubbed Elbows, as music from inside washed over them.  “The Kaethra are the friendliest species you could ever hope to encounter.  I know it’s your first trip with us, but you’ve heard the stories, right?”

Jax Tanner shrugged like it was no big thing, but managed to look uncomfortable nonetheless.  “Sure, but actual sex with them?  What about diseases and stuff?”

Gord laughed.  “Diseases… and stuff?” he gasped between paroxysms.  “It’s a totally alien biology, man!  It’s impossible to catch something from them.  We go in, buy a few drinks, and when a willing Kaeth sidles up to you and lets you know it’s interested, you just pay for a room and go at it.”

“Uh, how does it actually…work?”

Gord clapped a hand on Jax’s shoulder.  “Don’t tell me you haven’t watched any of them pornos on the Luck!  Basically, you stick your dick in one and fuck it til you’re done.  Then you go back to the ship with some once in a lifetime memories and more interesting stories than hauling ice and jerking off in your cabin for the last four months.”

Jax blushed.  “But…?”

“Shit.  You going to ask questions all night, or are we going to get some alien poon?”  Without waiting for a reply, Gord grabbed the other man’s wrist and tugged him into the club.

Inside the music was louder, but not uncomfortable.  There were weird harmonics in it, along with a sweet scent in the air.  “I’d swear that was honeysuckle,” Jax said wonderingly.

A Kaeth ‘hostess’, delicate wings shimmering prismatically in the club’s light, moved to greet them.  Its eyes glittered like faceted crystal as it handed them each a translator to pin to their clothes.  It then hummed an interrogative at the two men, and the devices did the rest.  “Welcome, gentlebeings.”

Jax couldn’t take his eyes from the Kaeth’s insectoid body.  Gord elbowed him.  “Gives new meaning to the term wasp-waisted, don’t it?”  He grinned at the hostess.  “Thanks.  You’ll have to pardon my friend; he hasn’t met one of you before.”

The Kaeth hummed something which the translators rendered as tinkling laughter.  “And you’re the expert, hmm?”

It was Gord’s turn to blush.  “Well, I, uh…How could you tell?”

The hostess interrupted with more musical speech.  “We know many things.”  It motioned peremptorily with a wing, and another Kaeth approached them bearing a tray with glasses on it.

Gord and Jax each took one, and sniffed at the amber liquid within.

The new alien kept its eyes downcast but trilled a response.  “Whiskey,” the translators rendered.

The spacers drank as the hostess stretched its gossamer wings forward to lightly brush them.  “Please be welcome.  You understand our customs?”

The men glanced at each other before Gord answered.  “Yes.  We wait to be approached before we find a, uh, partner.”

“Excellent.  Enjoy yourselves, gentlebeings.  We thank you for servicing us.”  Both Kaethra moved off.

Jax let out a breath.  “Whoa!”

“Totally hot, right?”

“Uh, I guess.”

Gord grinned lasciviously.  “Like the man said, ‘you ain’t seen nothing yet’, brother.  Let’s find us some company.”

They moved further into the club, where a white fog rose from vents in the floor to lend a magical ambiance.  The wreathing vapor teased them with half-revealed glimpses of both humans and Kaethra waiting alone, or together.  “What’d she mean by ‘servicing us’, Gord?” Jax whispered.

“What do you think, numbnuts?  Just hold onto your pecker—it’s all good.”

“But…?”

“Quiet!” Gord hissed, as a Kaeth loomed out of an eddy of fog.  It reached one appendage out towards them.  Gord glanced at Jax, then licked his lips.  “Well, if you won’t, I’m gonna.”  He put his hand out to hold the alien’s delicate hand-appendage, and it turned to lead him away.  “See you back at the ship,” he called back over his shoulder.

“Shit!  Don’t leave me here all alone!”

Gord didn’t answer, but disappeared into the fog.  Jax began to breathe more rapidly, and backed slowly away.  “Shitshitshit,” he muttered.  “This is crazy!”

Then another Kaeth came out of the mist, and held out its hand-appendage to him, and the spacer looked at it helplessly before he took it.  He shuddered as it turned to lead him through the fog to a hatchway with a cred reader on the wall beside it.  It leaned close and trilled.  “Rent us a room so we can be together, lover.”

Half dazed by the whiskey, the scents, and the alien music, Jax fumbled out his credit chip and swiped it at the reader.  The hatch unlocked and the Kaeth led him inside.

The alien closed the door behind him, letting him hear music which sounded like the alien speech playing softly in the small room.  He turned.  “What do I…?”

It raised its hand-appendage and touched his lips softly, then stepped in to press itself against him.  “You feel so warm.”  The Kaeth rubbed its pelvis against his and hummed something the translator didn’t bother with.

The alien proceeded to strip him from his jump suit, gooseflesh rising all over even as his phallus jutted out eagerly.  His eyes bulged as he felt the soft, warm flesh of the Kaeth press against him.

Then it had turned and fallen back against the bed, pulling him down on top.  Its humming came now with a certain urgency.  “I want you inside me, lover.”

“Uh, where…?” Jax began, but exhaled sharply as it guided him into a wet, warm, soft place which enveloped him completely.  He began to thrust over and over, and the alien clung to him and moaned a complex scale of harmonics as he rode it.

The orgasm hit him like a supernova, causing him to gasp with its intensity.  His hips kept shoving as the pleasurable spasms went on and on, and the Kaeth moved with him, the sounds of its own apparent pleasure chorusing with his.

Jax’s face reddened as he looked down at the alien below him.  “Uh, I’m sorry…it’s, it’s just been a long time, and, and I…”

The amusement in the Kaeth’s musical reply needed no translation.  “Do not fret; I’ve enjoyed myself immensely.  Thank you for servicing me.”

The spacer’s uncertain expression relaxed into a hesitant smile.  “Then it wasn’t, uh, too fast?”

“Just right, lover, just right.”

Jax worked his jaw like he wanted to say something more, but no words came.  He pulled out and stood up.  There was something pathetic about the man as he looked at the alien reclined on the bed, now that the deed was done.  It watched him languorously as he awkwardly got his jumpsuit, then turned back.  “Uh, is there a place…?”

It pointed past him to the corner of the room, and when he looked that way he saw a sink and towels.  He cleaned himself and dressed hurriedly, then looked back to see the Kaeth regarding him appraisingly with its crystalline eyes.  “Uh…”

“Farewell, traveller,” it trilled.

The spacer hunched his shoulders and left, closing the hatch behind him.  Outside he saw Gord exiting from a similar hatch nearby.  “Hey!” he called out.

His shipmate looked over and grinned.  “Was that amazing or what?”

Jax shrugged, arms crossed tight.   “Yeah, I guess.”

Gord snorted.  “Shit, try to sound more excited after banging your first freaking alien, okay?”

“First??”

Gord just laughed as the ‘hostess’ who’d greeted them earlier arrived through the mists.  “I trust all was to your satisfaction, gentlebeings?”

“Hell yeah!” said Gord.

Jax nodded wordlessly.

The ‘hostess’ gestured with its wing, and another Kaeth came over, eyes downcast.  “This one will lead you out.  Please return the translators and farewell, gentlebeings.”  The two men unpinned the small devices and handed them over, then left; one strutting, the other with hunched shoulders.

Once they’d gone, the hatches to the rooms they had occupied opened and the Kaethra emerged to stand with the ‘hostess’.  “How did we do this cycle?” trilled one, the musical sounds translated incidentally by the devices.

“Quite well.  Six sixes plus a third of a six.”

“So many!” marvelled the other.

The hostess peered in the direction of the departed spacers.  “Yes.  These humans are astonishing creatures, aren’t they?  All thanks to the Universe for bringing them to us.”

The others made appropriate sounds of agreement.

After some moments of silence, the one which had lain with Jax spoke.  “Do you think it will hurt them much?”

“Not until the very end.  Why do you ask?”

“The one I mated with tonight seemed different than the others; hesitant, most unsure of itself.”

“Oh?”

“Yes.  I wonder if that will affect the eggs I laid in him.  I’d hate my young to be defective.”

“The Universe provides as it will.  Now, back to work.”

“Yes my queen,” the two chorused.

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JUNE FLASH FICTION WINNER


Our congratulations to Christopher J. Burkethe winner of eSpec Books’ June Flash Fiction Contest. His prize is publication on the eSpec blog and one free ebook from among the eSpec publication list. 


Cyber Where
by Christopher J. Burke

“Cyber What?” I only paid half-attention even before I started raiding Melanie’s fridge, when she lost most of the rest of it, but I caught the word “cyber”.

“No, Cyber Where!” she said, thrusting her hands out at me for emphasis. “It’s a pun. And it’s the new idea I’m developing.”

I plopped myself onto her couch with a pilfered bottle of water. Feeling between the cushions, I fished out the remote. “It doesn’t work.”

Mel glanced at the screen and saw it come alive as I fingered the keypad in my hand. “What doesn’t work? You mean my idea? Of course, it doesn’t. It’s in the planning stages.”

“Not that.” I dropped the remote, then cracked the bottle and took a long draught. “The pun doesn’t work. What’s it mean?”

She grabbed her earpiece from the desk and held it up, the dongle hanging between her fingers. Unlike the usual short-range antennas, that one probably had a much greater range than regular low-end devices. Likely had faster data transfer, courtesy of a few firmware hacks.

“Duh! The equipment is cyberware. Hardware, software, cyberware!” Almost as a reflex action, she hooked it over her left ear. When she glanced down to see the cord rubbing against her shoulder, her first instinct was to swing the plug behind her head.

“Could you not?”

“Hannah, join the 22nd century already.”

“I did. Three years ago, like everyone else. I had my experimental phase back in college, just like you. Okay, and a little bit in high school, too, but you started enjoying those Naughty Nineties sooner than me.”

Mel laughed at the memories. She was probably accessing these from storage even as I mentioned it. “I always was the prodigy of our group.”

I couldn’t help but grinning for a moment at that. “I’m just saying that I wished the hole in the back of my neck has closed instead of the ones on my lobes.”

My mouth was dry, so I took another swig from the bottle, then grabbed the remote and flipped channels until I saw some extreme weather. It had a calming effect that lasted until Melanie snorted.

“You complain about me plugging in. You’re doing the same.”

“This is just background noise and pretty pictures. You were about to immerse yourself, and contrary to what you think, you suck at multitasking.”

I kicked off my shoes and tucked my feet under me on the sofa. “So what’s this idea? What ‘where’ are you talking about?”

“Any ‘where’! Any place you’d like! What would you like?”

I flipped channels, stopping on some old vid. A rom-com from the looks of it. You could guess the decade from the hairstyles.  He was kind of cute, and she was kind of cuter, but they were my age now before I was born.

Mel grabbed her tablet from the desk, swiped her hand across it and stole the big screen from me. I was looking at a pretty park and some old buildings.

“How about Paris? How would you to experience Paris?”

I went to toss the bottle and look for food. “Already have. Didn’t take a lot of time or money, either.”

France disappeared, replaced by Iceland from the looks of it. “Have you seen the Northern Lights?”

My head was in the cupboard where I knew she hid the good snacks. “On a screen. What would be different?” I looked back at the television. “You realize it’s daytime over there, right?”

Mel put the tablet back on the desk, exasperated. The earpiece, once unhooked, joined the tablet, along with the dangling dongle. She started to say something, but instead leapt onto the couch, stealing my spot. I mean, sure, it’s her couch, but I’d been sitting there, like, thirty seconds ago.

“I want to develop a service that will let you be in Iceland, be in Paris, without the time and money.”

“How would it work?” I was legitimately asking at this point. There were times Mel needed a sarcastic friend and times she needed a devil’s advocate. Now was time for the latter. I ripped the wrapper from a fruit bar, took a bite and thought about it. “You might see in Paris, but you wouldn’t be there. And you can do that with a phone and a cardboard headset.”

“I’m not talking about a toy with canned images or hacked visuals from local cameras. I want to experience it. To feel it.”

Feel it? “Mel, I get seeing something, somehow, somewhere, and maybe hearing it, too, but how are you supposed to feel?” Let’s put aside taste and smell for the moment. But could you really experience a city without some fine dining and, oh my God, the pastries?

She reached behind the sofa, and pulled out a higher end “brow” piece, which sits on a person’s forehead, stretching nearly from ear to ear. It could plug into the neck or …

Mel pushed back her bangs, revealing a series of ports right below her hairline. I knew of few people who actually needed that kind of interface. Until now, I wouldn’t have thought Mel was one of them. I still wasn’t convinced that she was.

“When did you –?”

“I was ahead of my time.” She placed the brow piece before I could object and jacked in. I was so shocked I didn’t notice the television switch. “Wait, what are we looking at?”

“Lubbock, Texas.”

Out of every strange thing that had come to pass in this afternoon, I could honestly say, that was probably the least expected of all of them. The image was normal eye-level, and it was moving down the street. I glanced around for a remote, wondering how to control it, pan around, zoom, but realized that Mel just had to think about it to make it happen.

Or so I thought until she called out.

“Simon, can you hear me?”

A male voice answered through the TV. “You don’t need to shout. You don’t even need to talk for me to hear you.”

“My friend, Hannah, is here. I didn’t want to be rude. I have you on speaker, okay?”

 “That’s fine. Hi, Hannah. I think you have something on your blouse.”

I’d been walking toward the screen, but I stopped in my tracks. I stared at the TV for a moment, before glancing down. A glob of fruit jelly had fallen on me. I snatched a tissue from the box and wiped it off.

I looked back at the set. “You can see me?”

Mel laughed. “Over here, Hannah.”

“He can see me through your cyberware?”

“No. He can see you through my eyes. And you’re seeing what he’s seeing through his.”

Could that work? 

“I can see, hear, and even smell what Simon is experiencing. And I can do this instantly with at least a dozen friends that I’ve already connected with. And there are thousands more out there.”

Incredible. “But I don’t see the logistics of it. People getting implants to be connect with a relative handful of people with implants? And how would you monetize something like that?”

“Automatons. We set up municipal docking stations that people can rent and move anywhere around town, like they do now for transit, and …”

I put up a hand. “Hold it. You’re not talking about bicycles. You’re talking robots with expensive cybertech. Do you think any city – even, Lubbock – sorry, Simon – would put up the capital for such a … fantasy?”

Melanie’s face fell. The devil came due. “I said I just started developing the idea. There are other ways …”

“Excuse me, ladies.” For the moment, I’d forgotten about Simon. I knew looking at Mel meant looking at both of them but I chose the screen anyway. “I need to break the connection. I do still have some matters that I don’t broadcast.”

Just before breaking the connection, I saw something in a store window. “Simon, before you go, could I see what you look like? Could you show me your reflection?”

“Sure.” He happily obliged. His reflection was clear enough to see his was well-dressed, well-groomed. But I noticed the gear he had equipped. It wasn’t the run-of-the-mill gray or chrome. And it was much easier on the eyes than the clumsy piece that Melanie wore. Hell, it even made me think twice about accessorizing, without the modifications and upgrades.

“That set-up looks incredible. Where do you get your tech?”

“Lots of places, but the look is purely my design. No reason that cybers can’t be stylish, right?”

He signed off and the screen went black. Mel removed her gear and rubbed her forehead. She seemed to have mild euphoria mixed with a headache.

I took the brow piece from her and looked it over. “Mel, you’re working on the wrong pun.”

She tilted her head up at me. “What?”

“You need to develop a line of cyber-wear. If people are going to use this stuff, they should look good doing it. Get me some paper, we’re sketching out some designs.”

WINNERS – JUNE AND JULY FLASH FICTION CONTESTS


Sorry for the long radio-silence, we moved last month and still haven’t gotten our feet back under us. Long overdue, below are the winners for June and July. I’m afraid we never got the August contest posted, so we will resume the madness in September.

Our congratulations to Christopher J. Burke and Michael Stricklandwho tied for winner of eSpec Books’ June Flash Fiction Contest. Their prize is publication on the eSpec blog and one free ebook each from among the eSpec publication list. 

Honorable Mention – Carol Gyzander – The Crossroads

Our congratulations to Jonathon Mastwinner of eSpec Books’ July Flash Fiction Contest. His prize is publication on the eSpec blog and one free ebook from among the eSpec publication list.

Honorable Mention – Ef Deal – Ice Cream Man


JUNE – CHANGE

Neverending
Christopher J. Burke

When the klaxon sounded, Valaron’s heart lifted even as the hair on his skin stood.  Only one traveler had come down the bridge in the past century. Friend or foe, he flew with wings spread to their fullest to meet the returning soldier or invading enemy. Taking a position near the bridge’s base, he drew his sword in salute.

Moments later, a reddish-black demon with three horns, tattered wings folding behind its back, and a bottle in its hand cantered down the ramp. His bare feet left a trail of dark, brimstone prints behind him that evaporated into rising smoke clouds.

Valaron lowered his sword and his face. “Oh, it’s you, Rupsgath. Why have you returned?”

“I have come for you!” He raised the bottle in his hand. “To get you drunk!”

“Why will you not leave me be? Be gone from Clarita, and return no more.”

The demon sat heavily on a large stone. He sank his teeth into the bottle’s cork and pulled it free with a satisfying pop. “Leave you be? It’s been eighty years since I last came! Have you seen any other than me in all that time?”

Rupsgath tilted his head back, held the bottle high above his maw and poured himself a drink. Then he offered the bottle to his host. Valaron declined.

The demon shrugged and took a second swig. “You must have realized by now, that no one else is returning. The war is done. The combatants have all fallen, to their deaths or to some lower dimensions. Only you and I are left, guarding domains from non-existent invaders.”

Valaron scoffed. “There are others out there. They didn’t all go to war. Some traveled the planes. Scholars, emissaries! They’ll return. And until they do, I will remain here. Some must guard Clarita always, or else it become defiled!”

“The lone sentry, I know the job.” He belched, emitting a wisp of smoke. “I handle that the way I deal with most things. Poorly. That’s why I’m here.”

“To torment me further?”

“No. To say ‘Good bye.’ I’ve had enough of the solidarity life, sitting on rocks in the middle of lava pools, just alone with my thoughts. And some booze.”

He looked the angel squarely. “I’m leaving. I’m going to walk the planes. Maybe I’ll return in another hundred years, or maybe a thousand. Maybe not at all. But I’m finished watching over an empty domain, protecting it from outsiders. Like any creature in the heavens or hells would want to call it home!”

Putting the near-empty bottle down on the ground, Rupsgath stood and turned away. “You could come with me. Or we could go separate ways. But there’s no one left to fight off.” He left out a laugh. “If you stay, I believe the saying is that you can beat that sword into a plowshare.”

Valaron raised his sword high again and shook his fist. “If you’re determined to leave, then do so, and never darken the bridge again! I’ll erect a fence around that defiled spot in your ‘honor’.”

“As you desire.” The demon walked the pavement to the bridge, his claws setting sparks on the stone. “If you ever do get tired of this place, visit Guumpthus. Take some holy water and sanctify a path. There’ll be no infernal magic to counter it. Farewell.”

The decrepit creature faded in the distance as the bridge crossed the planes.

Valaron thrust his sword into the dirt. Crops needed tending, and the steeple needed to be shined. He glanced back at the empty bridge once more. Maybe those would wait until tomorrow. Perhaps, he thought, I may take one day off.


JUNE – CHANGE

Last
Michael Strickland

She shudders, drawing one of her last breaths. Though she never contemplated death, her thoughts often turned — as they do again now — to those loved ones who had gone before. She feels their presence close by.

Her mate, proud and strong, prone to violence. Cut down by an armed gang, his massive body riddled with bullets. As he lay dying, he had strength enough only to open his eyes and gaze at her with a look that might have been remorse.

Strange but gentle hands touch her. Probing, pressing, even caressing. She feels a brief but sharp sting in her leg, like the bite of a horsefly. Relaxation spreads through her, and she breathes easier.

Her mother, that larger-than-life matriarch, without whom she wouldn’t have survived. She went peacefully, but she went nonetheless. Watching the life slip away from the one who’d given her life had been the hardest thing she’d ever endured, until….

A machine begins beeping. Her eyes flutter open, and she looks at the figures standing around her. White coats, shiny instruments, busy hands. One of them holds a black box that clicks and flashes every time he raises it to his face.

Her baby, her dear sweet girl, ripped away from her and brutally butchered. She hadn’t left the site where it happened till the rains had long since washed away the last of the blood.

They had all left her… but they have come back. They all stand around her, a soft green halo enveloping them. They lean in close, touch her. Something inside her gives out, and she melts away with them, all pain gone forever.

*    *

The man leans in close, stethoscope pressed to her torso. The grim look on his face gives away his words before he speaks them. “She’s gone,” he whispers.

The others just stand dumbstruck in shock or reverence, busy hands now slack at their sides.

Finally, one of them breaks the silence and gently strokes the rhino’s head. “She’s the last. We’ll never see the likes of her again on Earth.”


JULY – FREEDOM

Tempus Fugit
Jonathon Mast

“The year’s 2017.”

The guy stares at me a second, his mouth half-open. The lights from the neon signs reflect off his bald head. I’ll give him credit, though, he recovers quickly. “Well, obviously.”

“Don’t do that.” I pour another two beers and hand them off to Mel for delivery to the back room. She winks at me. I remind myself, You’ve done this hundreds of times. This is just one more. “You were going to act all smooth and try to figure out when you are. It’s – let’s see here – just shy of ten in the evening, Tuesday, August first, 2017. So now you don’t have to pretend you know what you’re doing. Trust me, you don’t. Besides, it just pisses me off.”

Aric the Red, munching some fried pickle chips, glances up. “Do not anger her. She will destroy you. Trust me.” Even though he wears jeans, he still looks every inch the viking he is.

“Well, I wasn’t threatening him that far. Not everyone tries conquering the bar.”

Aric shrugs.

The new guy looks at me, looks down at Aric, and sits at the bar next to the ancient Norseman. “You know about Chronometrics agents?”

“Nah. I just can tell a time traveler. We get a lot of them here.” I pour three more and pass them down the bar, collecting tabs as I go. Don’t let your hands shake. He can’t see how nervous you are. Get this right. “So, what kind of beer do you drink where you’re from?” He looks so young.

“Beer?”

I put on my sorry face. “Ah. You must be from one of the prohibition epochs. Sorry, man. Here, this one’s on me.” I pour an IPA and set it front of him. “All right. What are you here for? Info? Stopping something terrible from happening? You don’t look like one of the lost ones.” Don’t act like you already know the answer.

“I’m, uh, making sure that Daedalus doesn’t destroy the timeline.” He stares at the glass, tapping its side. “Is this safe?”

Yeah, well, I don’t want to destroy it either. I pause. There’s a reason I don’t travel myself. I just run the bar. Way easier. Except this time, I can’t mess up. Way too much on the line. Think. What did I say? Oh, crap. Just. Just be you. That can’t mess it up, right? “It’s not what I’d drink, but it’s safe. Daedalus, huh? Hey, Mel!” I call. “You remember when those Daedalus clowns passed through here?”

Mel comes from the back room counting one’s. I can see her trying not to look at the new guy. She’d probably bust up laughing and ruin everything. “Daedalus? Those were the guys with the rocketpacks powered by moonlight?”

Oh, thank you, Mel, for letting me just respond to you. “No, those were the Lunattacks. These guys, they wore the red body suits, eyepatches –”

“Oh, yeah!” Mel nods. “What? Four years ago?”

The new guy jumps to his feet. “I need to go there!”

“Sure. Hey, tell me I said hi when you get there.” I wink at him. “Make sure you mention you turned your nose up at the free drink.”

He knits his eyebrows together in that way he still has and runs out the front door. I sag against the bar. Mission accomplished? Did I do what I was supposed to do?

And then the new guy comes out from the kitchen, a little older, still just as bald, drying his hands on his apron. “Wow. You put up with me like that?” He kisses me on the cheek.

“Well, you wised up.” Yep. Be a smartass. Cover up your fear.

“I helped,” Aric puts in.

My hubby drops another plate of fried pickle chips in front of him. “You never let me forget it.”

I grab him and take a deep, deep breath. “Well, paradox resolved. I didn’t mess up. You went back, and you still drink crap IPA’s. Everything happened the way you remember. We made it. We made it! I still have you! Now we know we can live happily ever after.” And we kiss, because really, that’s what you do when you say a line like that.

WINNER – WARP DRIVE


Our congratulations to Christopher J. Burke, winner of eSpec Books’ April Flash Fiction Contest. His prize is publication on the eSpec blog and one free ebook from among the eSpec publication list.

For those interested in submitting to this month’s contest details can be found at: 

eSPEC BOOKS MAY FLASH FICTION CONTEST – MISBEHAVIN’


Warp Space and Chill

Christopher J. Burke

The wall monitor of my stateroom displayed a stunning view of the spaceport as the ship prepared for its departure. One could almost believe it an actual window, allowing folks on the station to peer into my cabin. I resisted the urge to wave. The rest of the room met, even exceeded, my expectations for the new flagship of the Blue Star Lines. They didn’t skimp, and neither had I when I purchased top-tier accommodations. After all, this would be my home for the next three days.

I had just stowed a few personal effects when I felt a familiar sensation. Looking over my shoulder, I saw the spaceport slip away and sink down the display. Then a red light flashed, accompanied by a three-toned chime.

“This is Irina, your flight attendant,” said a voice from a speaker. “All first-class passengers must report to the common area at this time.”

That sounded like an excellent idea. The common area housed the kitchen and the bar. But food and drink would have to wait. As soon as an attendant – this one was Ashley – spotted me, she checked off her clipboard. “Mr. Fletcher Ward, please sit in seat 8 and buckle in, please. We’re almost ready for the jump to warp space.”

Within a few moments, the ten of us, eight passengers and two attendants, sat securely. I thought them a bit over-protective with the procedures – I’ve taken dozens of voyages before – until they reminded us that of the new warp engine design. No one from the Sol system had ever experienced warp speeds like we would feel on this maiden voyage to Tau Ceti. Just a few ago, this trip would’ve taken weeks, and wouldn’t have been a leisure trip by any means.

Another flashing light and three more tones. “This is your Captain, speaking. Ship time is 2130 hours. In a few moments, I will engage the warp drive. For those of you familiar with our ships to Alpha Centauri, you may be aware of the effects of jumping to warp space. What you may not realize is that this ship with its new drive will cruise at ten times of the speed you’re used to. There may be a little discomfort at first, but it will pass. The drive will be engaged for approximately 12 hours for the first leg of our trip.”

The Captain continued to calm us and the fifty or so on the decks below until the ship was in position. I looked to my left and gave the young lady next to me a reassuring smile. She hesitated, then smiled back and added a little wink. A positive start to the first evening, I hoped. Then the drive engaged. She threw her head back, shut her eyes, and grit her teeth. I felt sorry for her discomfort, but at the same time a little comforted that she couldn’t see I was feeling exactly the same way. Grin and bear it best I could.

When we were free to move about again, she was clearly a little light-headed. Ashley quickly approached. “Ms. Verona, would you like me to escort you back to your cabin.”

She gave a quick nod, and the two eased away. Ms. Verona – I hadn’t gotten a first name yet – was going to be down for the night, alone. Pity. Looking around, Irina was supporting a gentleman in his efforts to walk, and an older couple in matching outfits helped each other.

The evening was young, and I didn’t want to return to my room so early. At least, not alone. As soon as I could, I stood and strolled to the table in the center of the room. A quick glance showed only four of us remained, with me being the only one of Sol ancestry. The others must be of hearty stock.

On the far left, near the bar, was a fellow with brown and amber skin. If that alone didn’t tell you he was from Alpha Centauri, the vestigial cranial horns were a giveaway. He was traveling far from home.

A little closer to me stood a tall, attractive woman with reddish-copper skin. Her dark brown hair hung down to her shoulders. From the few like her that I’ve met vacationing on Mars, I knew she was from one of the inner planets about Tau Ceti.  My guess: this was a ride home for her.

On my right, already seated at the table, was something new to me. Light-skinned with definite bluish tones. From a water planet? Amphibious, perhaps? Not from Tau Ceti. A neighboring system? Epsilon Eridani, maybe. Never met anyone from Ran.

Her smile was warm, charming. Her deep azure eyes, captivating. She invited me to sit before I could ask. Before I could find words to speak actually.

She introduced herself as “Sessastrass”, and confirmed her homeworld with me. She hadn’t been back for a couple of years and decided to do it right. The others joined us. The big guy was “Ro’K” for short, without elaborating. The lovely copper lady was “Amayya”.

Ro’K started the ball rolling, “Have you seen those views yet out the screens?”

Lame, but workable. Sessastrass answered him, “Only regular space. We’re missing the real show. The flashing, swirling lights should be amazing on that big glass.”

I tapped the table. “Plenty of time. That will be going on all night. And for most of the next three days.”

By this point, Irina and Ashley had returned. Drinks were served. Scotch for me, vodka for Ro’K, white wine for the red lady, and a seltzer for the blue woman. Now it started to be a party.

After a little more chatting, I reached inside my jacket and pulled a deck of cards from my pocket. “Anyone up for friendly games? No wagering, just ‘points’.”

Ro’K laughed. “I don’t know how ‘friendly’ you want to be, but I generally shy away from men who travel with their own cards. I heard an old story about getting an earful of cider that way.”

I didn’t get the reference but I put the deck down and slid it away from me. “Fair enough. I’d wager that there are sealed decks behind the bar, complete with Blue Star logos on them.”

Minutes later, we broke the seal and played started dealing. Card games are a great way to relax and read people, something I tend to excel at among humans. I’m less experienced with other races but always up to the challenge. Genuine curiosity feeds conversation, and it didn’t hurt my card playing either.

Ro’K was the first to fall. He’d already been traveling for days before just to get to this ship. He announced he was retiring. He made a slight bow in Amaya’s direction and then turned and locked eyes with Sessastrass for a moment. Then he burst out in a laugh and turned to me. “So how do we settle up these ‘points’? I don’t want to leave in anyone’s debt, and I need to make good.”

I started to protest, but he insisted.

“Irina, a round of drinks for the table. On me.”

Amayya spoke up, “The drinks are free.”

Ro’K pointed to a locked cabinet behind the bar. “Not all of them. Enjoy the ‘Top Shelf’. It’ll be a new experience.”

Irina poured out four measures of some kind of Centaurian brandy. Ro’K took his and returned to his room. Sessastrass demurred and pass hers to me. Amayya slowly savored her drink, opened her eyes wide and asked, “Who’s ready for another round?”

I raised an eyebrow and then I realized she meant the cards. But I was ready to score more “points” with the ladies. Oddly, I fared better than I’d planned despite the buzz and my usual slow-playing the cards. I won near every hand, Amayya winning the rest. My poor, dear blue lady tried but just wasn’t getting the hang of it. I wondered if she feared buying the next round.

Not that I could drink another. As I finished the second glass – and I was determined to finish – I knew I could either sleep in my own bed or the floor of the common room. I announced it was my last hand.

“Our last chance to even the score, is it?” Amayya asked with a coy smile. The brandy made me hopeful she was flirting. In reality, she slow-plays better than I do. When the cards hit the table, I realized I’d been hustled, and glad no actual money was on the table.

“Not good at mixing cards and brandy, are we?’ she laughed. “Come on. Let me help you to your room, and we can figure out how to settle up those points.”

I didn’t protest too strongly. Standing up, on the second try, I said good night to Sessastrass, mesmerized once again by her dark blue irises until Amayya pulled me away.

When my cabin door opened, we were greeted by an amazing warp space light show coming through the window, the likes I’ve never seen. Flashing white bursts, streaks of blue, the entire spectrum of color swirling on the monitor and through my brandy-addled brain.

Amayya closed the door and helped me to the center of the room, then stood facing me, holding me gently but firmly. “So how are we to settle? I believe the old Earth expression is that you ‘lost your shirt’. Seems fair enough to me. I’ll take it.”

With one quick motion, both her hands flew to pull my shirt open, popping a button or two. Before I knew what had happened, my shirt and jacket were on the floor by the bed. I started to wish I’d lost more. And drunk less.

I was so absorbed by Amayya’s hands on my chest, I hadn’t heard the door open. In our stumbling, neither of us had a thought to lock it. We didn’t realize that we weren’t alone until Sessastrass cleared her throat. She stood there wearing a simple floral silk robe, tied at the waist. Stunned, we said nothing.

“If Fletcher’s losses cost his shirt, I’m sure that mine cost more.” With a pull of the drawstring, her robe fell to the floor.  Shades of blue, swirling in patterns like the window behind us, all the way down.

I was too stunned to smile like schoolboy, still unable to move. Amayya smiled wide enough for the both of us. I heard nothing but was certain this siren was singing her tune. Sessastrass approached us more like a model on the runway than the fish I’d thought to reel in.

She stepped up to Amayya first, their eyes locked. Blue hands caressed red shoulders. Then Sessastrass’s lips drew back, and that was first time I noticed…my, what sharp teeth she had. Amayya had no reaction. Then again, neither had I.

Nor did I move an inch when she struck, biting into the base of Amayya’s neck. I can hear her slurp greedily. When she pulled away, barely a drop of blood showed, and the wound seemed already cauterized. The hold on Amayya slipped as she started to buckle at the knees. Sessastrass caught her and carried her to the bed, and then returned to me.

“I saved you for last. I like the blood of the humans in this system. It’s so … exotic.”

She leaned in, stood on her toes, and pulled me down toward her. She gave me a kiss on the lips first. “When on Earth …” she laughed. Then she flashed her teeth again, and that little pinch was the last I remembered.

When I awoke it felt like the entire ship had shuddered. The room was dark, except for the flashing red warning light. The swirling lights on the monitor had switched to black with a few pinpoints of light.

I lay on the bed with Amayya draped over me. She was wearing my shirt. It might’ve been the night of my life but I couldn’t recall. My head hurt when I lifted it, so I lay there listening to Amayya’s breathing. Thank God, she was breathing.

Slowly, her hands started to feel their way across my chest as she realized where she was. Then she reached out and gripped my arm tightly and moved closer. I think we’d stay in for breakfast.

WINNER – SUPERSTITION


Our congratulations to Anton Kukal, winner of eSpec Books’ February Flash Fiction Contest. His prize is publication on the eSpec blog and one free ebook from among the eSpec publication list.

For those interested in submitting to this month’s contest details can be found at: 

MARCH FLASH FICTION CONTEST – BETRAYAL


Monsters in the Attic

Anton Kukal

Gerry lay in his bed with the covers pulled over his head listening to the monsters open the attic door, the soft clicking of the knob being turned, the squeaking as it swung, the metallic bump as it closed again. His heart pounded in his chest. The monsters crept down the hallway, soft creaking footfalls echoing on the hardwood, until they stopped at the open door of his bedroom.

Not able to endure the silence, Gerry dared a one-eyed peek between the folds of his blanket. Three monsters waited, but he knew better than to cry out. Daddy had to go to work. He owned a company that did energy research for the government. Mommy had an early meeting. Neither would believe him, and both would be mad, really mad, so he held his breath, watching the monsters, hoping they would walk past his room.

With wrinkled orange skin, the monsters had heads like squished oranges with pointed ears, and big yellow eyeballs with bright red pupils that glistened in the dim glow of his Scooby Doo night-light. The eyes never blinked. They didn’t have eyelids, but they had plenty of teeth, yellow and long and sharp. They wore dirty, greasy rags as clothing, all stitched together into a rectangle of cloth pulled over their heads and tied at their waist with frayed ropes. They didn’t have shoes on their boney feet, but they had nails on the ends of their fingers that made their hands look like claws.

One of them carried a big cardboard box, the box Daddy used to store the Christmas decorations; the box Daddy blamed him for taking. The monsters were thieves. Last week, they stole the motor out of Mommy’s vacuum cleaner and the week before they’d taken the motherboard from Daddy’s computer. Lots of other things disappeared too, like the screen door spring, the cookie cooling racks, and all the silverware. They’d been eating with plastic ever since. Of course, he got in trouble for every missing thing.

The monsters moved past his room, creeping downstairs where he heard them rummaging in the closets and poking through the pantry. The basement door creaked. The monsters were going to Daddy’s workshop where they would move Daddy’s tools around. He always got in trouble when Daddy’s tools were moved, but not as much trouble as when the monsters played tricks. Sometimes they did silly things like putting grease on the door handle, but they also did dangerous things, like stringing a trip rope on the basement stairs. Of course, Daddy would blame Gerry for everything and Gerry would get punished.

At the breakfast table the next morning, Gerry had to warn Daddy, “The monsters went into your workshop last night. You should be careful if you go there.”

Daddy looked up from his iPad. He always checked his email at the breakfast table. Mommy didn’t like that, but Daddy did it anyway.

“Gerry, there are no such things as monsters,” Daddy said with a big sigh. “Monsters are only superstitions. Superstitions are things people use to explain the unexplained.”

Daddy was a scientist. He gave talks all over the world. Everyone said Daddy was very smart, but sometimes Gerry didn’t think so. “But everything can be explained. The monsters did it all.”

“I’ll tell you who is responsible,” Daddy’s voice gave him chills. “There’s a bad little boy in the house whose attention-seeking behavior is causing him to act out.”

Gerry knew better than to argue. Daddy was working himself up. He didn’t want a spanking or to go to bed without dinner. If only Daddy would believe him. He wanted to cry, but that would just get him in more trouble, so he tried to hold the tears back.

Mommy crossed the room and laid a hand on Daddy’s shoulder. “Let’s not start the day off poorly.”

 “We have to get a handle on this monster thing.” Daddy rose from the table and stomped away, leaving the rest of his breakfast uneaten.

Mommy sat down next to him, and put a hand on his arm. “Why do you go into Daddy’s workshop?”

“I don’t,” he insisted.

“Gerry, I know things are bad, but stealing things only makes our situation worse.”

“I didn’t.”

Mommy gave him that look. The one that always made him feel guilty even if he wasn’t. “And you have to stop setting your little surprises through the house. The iron balanced above the bathroom door could have really hurt someone.”

“I didn’t put the iron there,” Gerry insisted. “I can’t even reach the top of the bathroom door.”

Mommy sighed and pressed her forehead against his head. She started to cry. “You have to stay out of Daddy’s workroom. You have to stop your pranks. You know how much stress Daddy is under. The government is canceling his contract. His business is going bankrupt. We’re underwater on our mortgage. The bills are piling up.”

Gerry opened his mouth, but Mommy laid a finger over his lips.

“I don’t want to hear about monsters. There’re just superstitions, like your father said.”

As Mommy went back to finishing the dishes, he muttered under his breath, “The monsters are real.”

That night he lay in bed listening to the monsters creep past his room. He didn’t understand about ‘bankrupting’ and ‘mortgages,’ but they sounded real bad and they made Daddy angry all the time and Mommy so sad. He decided enough was enough. If Daddy and Mommy wouldn’t stop the monsters from messing up the workroom, from stealing things, and setting their nasty tricks, then he would have to do it. He got out of bed, put on his bunny rabbit slippers and picked up his little slugger T-ball bat.

The door to Daddy’s workroom in the basement was open so he walked right in. He caught the monsters using Daddy’s tools to work on a device about as tall as him. All the missing stuff was there. A gazillion wires connected Christmas lights to computer chips and circuit boards mounted on two cookie cooling racks, both attached to the shiny trashcan from the upstairs bathroom. Through holes cut in the trashcan, he could see springs connected to knives, the knives working as levers, pushing back and forth, controlling gears that drove spinning spoons and seemed to generate a strange glowing ball of cracking energy.

“You have to leave.” Gerry announced, talking like Daddy would talk.

The monsters looked up from their work, red pupils staring, mouths open in surprise. Their teeth looked so sharp, glistening in the florescent light. He wanted to run upstairs and hide under his covers.

Gerry lifted the bat and pointed the tip at them. “You have to leave!”

One of the monsters put down the wrench it was holding. “That’s what we are trying to do. My name is Hinky. My friends and I came from another world.”

“Just go back there.”

“The internal power supply of our portal generator broke so we’ve been building a perpetual motion engine as an external power supply.”

“Daddy gets mad when you don’t put his tools back. His ‘bankrupt’ is upside down, and his business is ‘mortgage,’ so you can’t stay here anymore.”

The monster took a step toward Gerry. “We want go. Your father’s workshop is very well equipped, but parts have been hard to find.”

“Is that why you stole the vacuum motor, the computer parts, and everything else?”

“We needed them for the perpetual motion engine,” Hinky explained.

“Why put the iron above the bathroom door?” Gerry could understand stealing stuff to go home, but not the mean tricks. “Daddy fell down the stairs on your trip rope. He could have been really hurt.”

The other two monsters giggled, inanely.

Hinky shrugged. “We’re gremlins. We like to play pranks.”

“You should stop that!”

Hinky smiled, looking almost sad. “I think that too. Sometimes I can control myself, but it’s hard for me and impossible for them.”

“I got in lots of trouble for your stealing.”

“I’m sorry,” Hinky said. The other two giggled, again.

“Our stuff is ruined.”

“I know your family is having financial trouble and our presence is adding to your worries. I intend to pay you back.”

Without supervision, the other gremlins had started playing with Daddy’s torch, the one with the big tanks of ‘oxy-something’ and ‘seta-lean.’

“Make them stop!” Gerry shouted. “Daddy says the torch could blow up the whole house.”

Hinky turned. “Back to work!” They looked sullen. “You want to go home, right?” Grudgingly, the gremlins picked up their tools. “They’re not as smart as me.”

Gerry could see that. “How long till you leave?”

“Minutes.”

“Really?”

“Just a few more adjustments and then we’ll connect the perpetual motion engine,” Hinky pointed to the device made of their stuff and then to the flat bar of shiny metal lying on the floor, “to our portal generator and be gone.”

“How will you go?”

“We warp space and time, folding reality over itself, to move from one location to another almost instantly.” Hinky reached in and hooked a spring to one of the knives.

Gerry didn’t understand the explanation.

One of the other gremlins drilled a hole in the shaft of a fork and bolted it onto the base of Mommy’s missing iron, energy cracked between the tines. The other used one of Daddy’s extension cords to connect the two machines.

“Will it work?” Gerry asked.

“Watch,” Hinky pressed the button on the stolen kitchen timer and the air above the portal generator began to shimmer. A dot of colored lights appeared, then the lights became a small ring, and then the ring was big enough for the gremlins to walk through. The two giggling gremlins leapt into the ring and disappeared.

“I’m leaving the perpetual motion engine behind. It uses forms of energy that your world has not yet discovered.” Hinky bent down and picked up the portal generator. “Give the engine to your father as payment for letting us stay here. He can reverse engineer its components and isolate the energies. All your money problems will be solved. Enjoy your life, little human.”

Hinky stepped through the portal and the prismatic spray of lights winked away.

Daddy stormed into the workroom. “I finally caught you!”

Gerry had never seen Daddy so mad, and he tried to explain. “I followed the monsters here! I talked to them. They are gremlins from another world.” That was the wrong thing to say, but he had proof this time. He pointed to the device. “They left you their perpetual motion engine. They said you can reverse ‘something’ it and make lots of money.”

Daddy was in a rage. “I’ve told you never to use my tools without my permission. I can’t believe you built our stuff into some child’s toy.”

“I didn’t,” Gerry insisted.

Daddy picked up the device, raised it high above his head, and then brought it crashing down against the tile floor. The device shattered, springs popping and gears rolling away, sparks danced from its innards, and then with a sad little whine, the levers stopped moving, all the lights winked out, and a small curl of smoke rose from the ruins.

“How many times do I have to tell you,” Daddy raged. “Monsters are just superstitions!”

WINNER – SCIENCE FICTION


Our congratulations to Kevin Z. Garvey, winner of eSpec Books’ January Flash Fiction Contest. His prize is publication on the eSpec blog and one free ebook from among the eSpec publication list.

Honorable Mention

Anton Kukal – Stellar Sacrifice

For those interested in submitting to this month’s contest details can be found at:

FEBRUARY FLASH FICTION CONTEST – SUPERSTITION


Time Pilot

Kevin Z. Garvey

Time pilot Tommy Garfield looked at his black Casio G-shock watch. It was 10:15 pm on a Friday night. In just 45 minutes, he’d be taking his first official time-flight into the future. And when he landed, the world would be a much different place.

Tommy was standing out on his back porch, looking up at the night sky. It was a brilliant night, clear and bright with stars. Tommy gazed at the constellations, recognizing many of them from his cell phone’s Google Sky app.

The screen door behind him squeaked open. Mission Commander Bradley Garfield joined his son on the porch.

“Hi, Tommy. Ready for your first time flight?”

Tommy looked at his watch again. “T-minus 39 minutes,” he said. “And counting.”

Tommy and his dad surveyed the night sky.

“Beautiful, isn’t it?” Commander Garfield said. “So clear. So many stars. On a night like this you can see why our galaxy is called the Milky Way.”

“There’s the Big Dipper,” Tommy said, pointing toward Ursa Major.

“Well, enjoy it while you can. Because when you land in the future, not a single one of those stars is going to be visible. No constellations, no planets…nothing but one giant star blotting out everything else.”

Tommy nodded. “Shining so bright you can’t even stare at it without going blind.”

Commander Garfield smiled. “You’re not scared, are you?”

Tommy made a face. “I’m a time pilot, Dad.”

Garfield laughed. “That’s my boy.”

~*~

 The kitchen smelled of fresh baked goodies.

Tommy and his dad sat at the table, eagerly anticipating dessert.

“Brownies!” Tommy exclaimed when he mom placed a tray of chocolatey goodness down in front of him.

“They’re big, so you only get one each,” she said. “And that’s an order.”

 After Tommy and his dad devoured their treats, it was time to get serious. They looked at their watches.

“T-minus 7 minutes,” Tommy said. “And counting.”

“Let’s do this,” Commander Garfield said.

Tommy leaped off his chair and kissed his mom. Then he and Garfield raced upstairs, to where the time jet awaited.

~*~

Tommy went through his pre-flight time jump routine, which began with the brushing of his teeth. Afterwards, he went into his room, where the time jet was housed, changed into his time-flight suit and hopped aboard. Looking at his watch, he saw that it was now less than T-minus 1 minute and counting.

Mission Commander Garfield glanced at his own watch. “Ready for takeoff?” he asked.

“Ready, sir!” said Tommy, lying back, eyeing his watch. “T-minus fifteen seconds!”

“Give me the countdown.”

“T-minus ten seconds…nine…eight…”

“Ignition set,” Commander Garfield said. The lights went out. “All systems go.”

“…six…five…four…”

“Initiating time flight guidance systems.” A dim light illuminated the room. “Ready for takeoff.”

“…two…one…” A beeping sound from his watch told Tommy that zero hour had arrived. “Ignition!” he said.

“Blast off!” Commander Garfield said. “Prepare for sonic boom! See you in the future!”

Slam! Tommy jumped at the sound of the sonic boom. And then all was quiet. He was alone now, in his time-jet, hurtling through space and time. He closed his eyes, knowing that within minutes he would be entering a state of suspended animation, one that would last until his watch beeped again. And the future became the present.

Soon he felt himself drifting off…

~*~

Tommy’s watch beeped. His eyes popped open. Sunlight streamed through his bedroom window, proof that he was in the future.

He hopped off his time jet, changed into shorts and a t-shirt, washed his face, brushed his teeth, and went downstairs to the mission debriefing facility.

His mother and father were at the table, drinking coffee.

“Hey, Tommy,” his dad said. “How was the flight?”

Tommy grinned. “Mission accomplished.”

“Would you like some toast?” his mother asked.

“Can I have a brownie instead? Please?”

His mom made a face.

“Pretty please?”

Tommy mom smiled. She went to the counter and came back with a brownie on a plate.

“Thanks, Mom!”

“Are you ready for the mission debriefing?” asked Commander Garfield.

Tommy bit into the brownie and held up a forefinger as he chewed. After a big swallow: “Ready!”

“Okay. First question is: How far into the future did you travel?”

Tommy looked at his watch. He’d taken off at 11 pm, and it was now 9 am. He counted in his head. “Ten hours,” he said.

“And what changes have taken place in that time period?”

Tommy thought about that for a moment. “Well, the stars are gone.”

Commander Garfield tilted his head from side to side. “Not gone exactly, but certainly out of sight. For now at least.”

“Until the sun goes down,” Tommy said, and took another bite of his brownie.

“And not only did you travel through time on your flight,” he told Tommy, “you also traveled through space as well. How far do you think you went?”

Tommy shrugged. “I dunno.”

“Take a guess.”

“A million miles?”

Commander Garfield chuckled. “That’s not a bad guess actually. But believe it or not, you traveled much further than that.”

“I did?”

Tommy’s eyes went wide. “Really?”

“Absolutely. Let’s break it down. Now, as you know, the Earth spins around on its own axis. That’s how day turns to night and night to day. How long does it take to complete one full rotation?”

“That’s easy,” Tommy said. “Twenty four hours.” He took another bite of his brownie.

“Correct,” his dad replied. “And since the Earth is so big, it has to be moving pretty darn fast to complete one full rotation in just twenty four hours.”

“How fast?”

“Over 1000 miles per hour.”

“Wow!”

“Exactly. But that’s nothing. Because in addition to rotating, the Earth is also revolving around the sun, which is why we have seasons.”

“It takes one year to go around the sun,” Tommy said.

“Correct again. Do you know how fast we’re moving?”

Tommy chewed thoughtfully on a piece of brownie, then shrugged.

His dad smiled. “67,000 miles per hour.”

“Wow!” Tommy said.

“But that’s nothing either,” Commander Garfield said. “Because the entire solar system is revolving around the center of the Milky Way. Care to guess how fast we’re moving in that direction?”

Tommy thought about that for a moment, but couldn’t come up with an answer.

“514,000 miles per hour,” Commander Garfield said.

Tommy’s eyes went wide. “That’s too fast!”

“But that’s nothing either.”

“There’s more?” Tommy said, and started laughing.

“There sure is,” replied Commander Garfield. “Because the galaxy is moving too. About as fast as the solar system: a half a million miles per hour.”

Tommy’s jaw dropped.

“That’s amazing,” his mom said.

“So every hour,” Commander Garfield said, “we move about a million miles through space. How many miles do we move in ten hours?”

Tommy calculated in his head. “Ten million miles!”

“Crazy, isn’t it?”

“It sure is!”

“But that’s not all,” Commander Garfield said. “There are plenty of other changes taking place as we fly into the future. Did you know that there are four babies born every second?

Tommy shook his head. “There are?”

“Yep. And if you do the math, it turns out that, during your time flight, there were about 150,000 babies born.”

“That’s a lot of diapers,” Tommy’s mom said.

“That’s a lot of poopy diapers!” Tommy said.

Garfield laughed. “And that’s just people. Think of all the animals born, all the fish, insects…spiders.”

“I hate spiders!” Tommy said.

“Every second of every day,” Garfield went on, “enormous change takes place. And that’s just on Earth. Who knows what’s happening on other planets.”

“Other planets?”

“Sure. Scientists are finding Earth-like planets all over the universe now. And on some of those planets, there might even be intelligent creatures. Creatures like us, with hopes and dreams and laughter and tears…”

“And poopy diapers!” Tommy said.

His mom and dad laughed. “Exactly.”

The three of them fell silent for a few moments, contemplating what they’d just discussed.

“So,” Garfield said, breaking the spell. “Did you enjoy our little time pilot game?”

“I did,” Tommy said. “A lot.”

“What was your favorite part?”

Tommy didn’t hesitate. “The sonic boom!”

His dad laughed. “I slammed your bedroom door pretty hard, didn’t I?”

“Yes, you did,” Tommy’s mom said with mock anger.

Garfield winked at his wife. “The good news is that real time travel doesn’t require a sonic boom.”

“I want to play it again,” Tommy said.

“Actually,” Garfield said, “you’re playing it right now. We’re all time pilots, Tommy. We’re all flying into the future, one second at a time. Pretty cool, huh?”

“That’s chill!” Tommy said, and popped the last of his brownie into his mouth.

His mom went to the refrigerator. “Here’s something else that’s chill,” she said, returning with an ice cold carton of milk.

“I’m glad there’s milk in the future!” Tommy said, draining his glass.

His parents laughed. Then the three of them, along with everyone else in the world, continued on with their journey into space-time.

WINNER – A VILLAIN IS BORN


Our congratulations to Ramon Rozas III, winner in eSpec Books’ December Flash Fiction Contest. His prize is publication on the eSpec blog and one free ebook from among the eSpec publication list.

Honorable Mention

Anton Kukal – Heroic Intentions
Michelle N. Palmer – The Verona Tapes
Christopher J. Burke – Sin Cafe

For those interested in submitting to this month’s contest details can be found at:

JANUARY FLASH FICTION CONTEST – SCIENCE FICTION


TOP OF HIS GAME

Ramon Rozas III

“Master Austin, sir,” Honeywell said.

“Excellent!” the tall man in the suit said.  He rose from behind his desk as Honeywell showed Austin into the cavernous, glass-walled, two-story office atop the tallest skyscraper in New York.  The tall man nodded.  “You may leave us, Honeywell.”

“Certainly, sir.” The assistant exited the office.

Bruce Kincaid, by most calculations the richest man in the world, considered the young man before him.  “Hello, son.  How old are you now?  Eighteen?”

Austin Kincaid shook his head.  “Seventeen, sir.  Eighteen in two months.”  He knew his father never forgot anything.  This was just a show – too bad Austin saw right through it.

“Ah.  So, to what do I enjoy this visit in New York?”

Austin shuffled his feet.  “Well, sir, I wanted to discuss my college choices with you.”

The senior Kincaid repressed a smile at Austin’s show of nerves.  His son was never nervous.  Too bad Bruce saw right through him.  “So what are your choices?”

“MIT or Stanford, sir.  Or the Lenin Institute in Novosibirsk, Russia.  There are several excellent underrated geneticists there and the local restrictions on…experiments are less taxing.”

Bruce shrugged.  “Wherever you attend, I will ensure you have a private lab free of complications.  What are the pros and cons of your remaining choices?”

Austin ran through his list.  His father nodded along.

“An adequate analysis,” Bruce said, studying Austin.  “Was there something else?”

More faux hesitancy. “I did consider taking a year off to simply work my way around the world.”

“Hmm.  While your mother has done an appropriate job raising you, your opportunities to observe social interactions amongst the public at large has been limited.”

“’Appropriate’?”

“I am sure you have deduced after all these years that your mother is an employee, Austin – paid quite handsomely to ensure your upbringing.  And she has done exactly as I anticipated.”

“Why aren’t you coming to my graduation?” Austin blurted out without preparation.

Bruce held out a hand, palm up.  “What is the one resource you can never buy, borrow, beg, or steal, Austin?”

Austin blinked twice.  “Time, sir?”

Bruce held up one finger.  “Correct.  I have important plans, Austin, to which I have dedicated all of my time, my will, and my not-inconsiderable-intellect.”  The elder Kincaid turned from his desk and moved slightly toward the wide, transparent wall behind him through which one could see the Statue of Liberty and Manhattan Harbor.

“The…peasants of this world need to be shaped, Austin.  They –”

Austin launched himself at his father’s back, working loose the razor-sharp knife he had made himself from his hidden thigh sheath.

The elder Kross made a twirling gesture with his left hand without turning around.

Two taser darts shot from the dark metal desk and struck Austin in each thigh.  With a crackle of electricity, he fell to his knees, knife still pointed at his father in his frozen hand.  He shuddered as the voltage flowed through him.

Bruce turned and walked over to his shaking son.  He considered his elbow and then drove it into Austin’s jaw.  His son collapsed fully to the floor.

Bruce turned off the current, kicked the knife from Austin’s now-loose grip, and dragged his son to the settee near his desk.  He ripped open Austin’s shirt, revealing a plastic wrapping around his chest.  Bruce tapped it lightly.  “Body armor?”

“Bio-film based,” Austin gasped.  “Hardens when certain chemical triggers issue.”

“Went right through my scanners,” Bruce said admiringly.  He pulled the taser prongs out of his son’s legs.  “Too bad I aimed low.”

He called for Honeywell, who came with a first aid kit.

Bruce Kincaid stood, wiping his hands on his immaculate suit trousers and considered his son.  “I am relieved, Austin – I thought you would never try.”

Austin waved Honeywell’s hand, with a compress, away from his bleeding chin.  “Why? What is this?” he said.

Bruce walked back over to the broad, giant glass wall, surveying New York.  “I have plans, Austin – grand plans.  And I have everything I need, except one thing.”  He turned on one heel back to his son and raised his index finger.  “Time.  I cannot finish in my lifetime, so I must make sure that my successor is prepared, educated, and hardened.”  He dropped the finger and pointed at Austin.  “You will try to kill me again, and again and again.  You will gather resources, allies, strategies and become wise in doing so.  One day you will succeed.”

Bruce spread his arms wide.  “And that day, you will be ready for all of this to be yours.”

Austin rose shakily to his feet.  “All of this is just – shaping me? Making me your tool? My mother? My teachers? Friends?”

“You will be Alexander to my Phillip, Austin.   And the world will tremble at your feet.”

Austin was trembling.  Suddenly he was shouting. “You’ve taken everything from me!  Family! Friends!  I HATE YOU!”

Bruce smiled.  “Excellent.  Take that hate – shape it.  Use it.”  He turned back to the cityscape.  “Honeywell, show my son to the infirmary and then make arrangements for the plane to take him home.”

“Of course, sir.”

“Oh, and Austin – what have you decided about college?” he asked without turning toward his son.

Austin was breathing heavy.  “Stanford…sir.  I don’t have time to travel the world.”

Bruce nodded, smile still on his face.

Honeywell escorted Austin out.

Kincaid touched his watch.  He deserved a small indulgence.  Perhaps Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings?  He tapped in the command and the music swelled in the vast office as he watched the tiny dots scurry about below.