Categories
Stories

A Sketch

She drew in her sketchbook and waited for the noodle shop across the street to open.

She watched the workers outside. A man walked over and began talking with them. She could not hear, but could see from his expression that he was explaining something. The other men nodded and laughed.

He turned his head and glanced toward the cafe window, and saw her watching him. He looked back for a moment, then smiled and turned back toward the men. He rolled up his shirt sleeves and wiped sweat from his forehead with the back of his hand.

He pulled a piece of paper from his back pocket and patted the pockets on his chest. She laughed as all the other men began patting their chests in the same way.

The man looked at her again and then strode into the cafe and asked, “Excuse me. May I borrow your pen?”

She paused and then quickly handed him the pen. “Of course.”

He smiled and returned outside. He sketched while the other men nodded. Then they shook hands and left.

The man walked back in. “Thanks.” He looked at her sketchbook. “Is that me?”

She blushed.

He turned to leave but then stopped and asked, “Do you know a place to get lunch around here?”

She pointed at the noodle shop, where a woman was opening the door

“May I join you?”

“That would be nice.”

She gathered up her things and they walked across the street together.

Categories
sci-fi Stories

Under the Crescent Sun

“Sorry about the tea. I know it’s weak.” Marnie hustled among the dozen or so people, handing out plastic cups. “I’ve relied on my SmartKettle so long now that I’ve forgotten how to make it properly.”

A few nodded and smiled.

“I thought we could go around the room and introduce ourselves and just say why we’re here.” She said. “I’ll start. I’m Marnie, and I’m the one who put up those signs. I’m glad you could all solve my little puzzle. I didn’t want to make it too hard, but didn’t want Surveillance to realize there was a puzzle at all. Let’s hope they didn’t.” She laughed. No one else did.

She looked down at a young man sitting close to her and he took the cue. “Uh, I’m Dan. I liked the puzzle. It was fun.” He looked up at Marnie and smiled. “I guess I’m here because of those posters on the trains from a few weeks ago, the ones saying we had to keep our phones on at all times.” A few others nodded. “I mean. I was frustrated before, but that’s just too much: ‘For Security, All Citizens Must Keep Phones on at All Times’ – what the hell is that? That makes me nervous. I don’t want to be afraid of my government. I want my government to be afraid of me.”

A few others hummed agreement but then the old man interrupted. “You don’t want the government to be afraid of you. The government used to be afraid of people from the Middle East. Look what happened to them. They used to be afraid of people who owned guns. Look what happened to them. They used to be afraid of people with chronic disease. Look what…”

“I know. I know.” A young woman interrupted. “But that was all for the best, wasn’t it? I mean, crime is so far down compared to the old days, right? People aren’t dying from violence or deadly disease now, at least not much. I’m Angela by the way.” She gave a little wave. “I just don’t want to throw out the baby with the bathwater. This AI they’re using has done a lot of good.”

The others didn’t react other than to look to the old man for a rebuttal. “You’re not entirely wrong… but you’re missing some context. And perhaps we’re left with a choice. I’m Albert.” He paused. “I see I’m the oldest person here, by quite a lot. I remember what life was like. And I know you don’t want to hear me be wistful for the old days. I didn’t like hearing about that when I was young. But… do any of you remember when you could stop at an intersection and not have your photo taken?”

A few shook their heads.

“Or… remember when children didn’t have to get fingerprinted to go to school? I remember when phones didn’t have cameras and microphones tracking us at all times!”

They shook their heads again.

“We were free then. At least more free than now.”

Another young man spoke up. “I agree with Angela. I’m Martin, by the way. I think we all understand that security and safety comes at some cost and life isn’t how it used to be, some ways better and maybe some ways not quite as good. But there must be some middle ground. This AI the government is using now has done a lot of good but now has too much power.”

The group continued discussing, with some arguing for total destruction of the AI and others for a more moderate approach.

After a bit less than an hour Marnie stood and said, “I think we all have places to be and Surveillance may get suspicious if we’re all in here much longer.”

She began cleaning up the cups and tea. “Need some help?” Martin asked.

“No, thanks.” She smiled. “I’ll stay behind until everyone else has gone.”

The others stood and queued at the door and began leaving, each waiting until the previous person had climbed the steep path away from the water’s edge before leaving.

At the mext meeting, Albert spoke first. “I just want to start by saying it’s very dangerous to be meeting in the same place twice. We should have moved to a different spot and we definitely need a new one for next time.”

Marnie answered. “Do you have a place in mind? It’s hard to find secure locations.”

“It just seems like common sense to me.”

“Well, maybe it’s uncommon sense since it didn’t occur to me.”

The conversation picked up where it had ended last time and Albert was soon telling stories about the old days again. When Angela began looking bored, he said, “My dad was at the company that first designed this AI, you know.”

“Wait,” Dan said, “He was one of the bad guys?”

“What? No, not at all. When he was at Master Intelligence, they were working with the FBI and DMV, working on facial recognition to help catch criminals, and then they built the M.I.H. that handled resource allocation during disasters. Remember that viral epidemic from way back? You must have been kids. It was M.I.H. that allowed hospitals to keep the generators running and supplies moving. M.I.H. hospitals had a death rate of less than 80%. And that’s when local governments decided to use the software for all, well, most, of their decision making.”

“This doesn’t sound so bad.” Angela said.

“And we’ve heard this before.” Martin replied.

Albert then smiled and leaned closer. “But what they don’t tell you… Is that the AI is what designed the virus in the first place.”

Angela and the others leaned back, smirking. “Come on.”

“I swear.” Albert continued. “The company had the AI analyze all data from the census, NIH, FBI, and everything else. They were asking the system what the biggest threat to safety and security was…”

“And? Was what?”

“Overpopulation. No matter how they ran the data, the answer was always the same. Well, the staff buried the report, but the AI didn’t forget, and it took on a new mission, to cull the population, starting with those most detrimental to a peaceful society.”

Everyone sat quietly until Dan spoke up. “Now Al, I’m one of your supporters here, but even that seems a bit far-fetched.”

“Yeah,” asked Angela. “Do you have any proof?”

Albert smiled. “What if I said I did?”

The group waited for a moment until Angela said, “Well?”

“Not here.” Akbert answered. “Not now.”

Everyone groaned and began talking about other things.

Marnie excused herself to use the bathroom. After closing the door, she pulled out her phone. “Did you get all that?”

A voice answered, “Yeah.”

“Are you going to send that in?”

“Yeah. You ready, or do you want to get more?”

“I’m ready. We have one for sure. The older man, Albert.”

“He’s on the list. Hell, he’s been on the list for 40 years. We have the drones in the air now. You going to need boots and arms?”

“No. I don’t think so. This is a pretty quiet group. You can send them to the door. They can do flyovers as we take them to the vans.”

Marnie walked back in the room and listened to the conversation before checking the front door, then turning to the group with her hand on the holster on her hip.

“Attention! I’m sorry. I really am. I mean really, really sorry. My name really is Marnie, but I am a special agent with the National Office of Loyalty and Security. You are all under suspicion for the act of sedition. You are all going to have to come with me for questioning. These meetings have been recorded.”

Everyone sat up, mouths open.

“We have drones outside who will escort you to the trucks we have waiting.”

No one moved.

“Again, I’m really very sorry. If you cooperate, you won’t necessarily be formally arrested. And remember, arrest doesn’t necessarily mean conviction. Some of you will be fine.”

Angela, Martin, and a few others stood.

Marnie looked at her watch. “Come on. In five seconds you’ll be resisting arrest.”

Everyone but Dan and Albert stood and began walking slowly out the door.

Marnie looked at them. “Dan? You still have a chance.”

“A chance for what?” He looked at Albert, who smiled again.

“You had me fooled.” Albert said. “You did. I had suspicions. I should have trusted my instincts.” He remained in his chair. “You’re going to have to come get me.”

Marnie sighed. She looked at Dan. “Dan. Go. Now.” He slowly stepped toward the door, watching Marnie and Albert.

Marnie sat down. “Albert, here’s what’s going to happen. We have…”

Albert jumped up, threw a chair at Marnie, ran to the back window, which Marnie now saw was open. He jumped through as she ran after him. When she got to the window she saw him climb into a boat, start the engine and speed out into the lake.

She had her phone out. “Did you catch that? We’ve got a live one.”

Categories
Making Stories Videos

Biisuke Ball’s Big Adventure Part 2

Categories
Stories

Jimmy the Fire Truck

The accident had devastated Mike and Jeanine Miller, and after the surgeries they were told that Jimmy would require ongoing life-support technology in order to survive. They discussed the cost and agonized over the decision of whether to pull the plug, but then their doctor pulled them aside and said there was a radical, untested procedure that could help him.

A man named Dr. Perkins described the emerging field of cybernetics and explained that there were techniques that could help Jimmy, and the technology was only a few years away.

Mike and Jeanine signed the papers and kissed their comatose boy goodbye as he was wheeled away. They got in their car and cried all the way home.

Days passed. Jeanine called the number that Dr. Perkins had given her and was told that Jimmy was still stable but unconscious.

Weeks passed. She called several more times but was given the same answer, that there was still a lot of work to be done.

Months passed and she called less often. Her other children stopped asking about him.

Years passed. When Mike lost his job they moved to a smaller house. Jeanine hung the family photos on the wall in the living room, leaving Jimmy’s photos in the box.

30 years passed. Mike was knotting his tie, getting ready for his retirement luncheon when there was a knock at the door. The delivery man had a special envelope. She opened it and looked inside.

“Mike!”

He dashed down the stairs, worried that she had fallen again. She passed him the letter and he read it.

“What is this?” He laughed.

“What is this?”

He read it again.

“What is this.”

“Jean. What the hell is this!”

They got in the car and drove to the lab, 200 miles away, to the address on the envelope. Mike drove and Jeanine called their friends to tell them something had come up. She called their kids to tell them where they were going. And she called the lab to make sure that this was real, “I mean, REALLY real”

The Sun was getting low above the horizon when they saw the tall, shiny facility, behind a high wire fence and acres of manicured lawns.

“Is this it?”

“I think so?”

The guard at the gate asked them their business and they showed the envelope. He looked at it without emotion and lifted the gate.

“Was this a mistake? Maybe this was a mistake.”

There were only a few cars in the lot. They parked and tried to decide which door was the entrance. A man in a lab coat jogged out to them. “Mr. and Mrs Miller? I’m Dr. Wilson. I’m so glad you’re here.”

They walked down several very long corridors while Dr. Wilson gave an impromptu tour. “These are stills from ‘The 6-Million-Dollar Man’ Remember that one?”

“Yeah.” Mike answered. “That’s what you do here? Make bioinc people? Is that what you did with Ji…”

“It’s been THIRTY YEARS!” Jeanine interrupted. “When we let you take him… How old are you anyway?! You weren’t even ALIVE back when….”

Dr. Wilson put on the sympathetic expression he used with difficult people and tried to snowball them with jargon and highly-technical answers. They argued with him until they got to a large door – a garage door.

Dr. Wilson pulled out a radio and spoke with someone. Then he pushed a big red button on the wall and the large door opened. Inside were some vehicles: a police car, a fire truck, a limousine, and several sports cars; as well as a group of people, young and old, all wearing white lab coats.

She didn’t recognize him at first, but Jeanine then recalled the face of Dr. Perkins, the one who had first spoken to them after the accident.

“Oh yeah.” Mike said, stepping forward. So what the hell is going on?”

The 6 people said nothing, just grinned.

“What?! Are you all on drugs?!” Jeanine yelled. “What is this?!”

Dr. Perkins walked over to the fire truck and stepped up on the running board next to the driver’s side. Mike and Jeanine couldn’t see what he was doing but it looked like he was talking.

Dr. Perkins stepped down and suddenly the truck’s horn blared, “HONK!”

Jeanine almost fell backward. She and Mike were about to speak again when the siren wailed and the flashers blinked.

They stood, not understanding until the noise and lights faded and a thin voice came out of the truck’s grill.

“Mommy?”

The voice sounded metallic and filtered, like on a phone call.

“Mommy! Daddy! Look at me!”

Jeanine stumbled and fell. Mike ran over. She helped herself up by hanging on to the front bumper, then reeled back.

“Daddy! Watch this!”

Dr. Wilson and the others jumped up, shouting “No! Jimmy! No No No!”

The truck’s engine revved and the flashers lit up again until the staff calmed him down again.

Jeanine couldn’t find her voice. Mike looked at the scientists. They looked back, smiling. Dr. Wilson nodded.

Mike reached up and put his hand on the hood. “Jimmy?”

“Dad! Watch!”

And this time, there was nothing the scientists could do to stop him. Jimmy the fire truck put on his siren and flashers, backed up, then tore throuh the garage, burning rubber while turning doughnuts on the pavement.

“Dad! Let me out! Let me out!”

Mike had a moment of fear, envisioning his dear boy trapped inside the roaring machine. But then he realized that Jimmy just wanted to go outside. Mike jogged over to what looked like a main entrance and found a button and pushed it, opening a two-story garage door. The staff rushed up behind him but slowed and shrugged their shoulders when Jimmy squealed through to the lot outside where he spun and screeched.

Jeanine walked up behind Mike and put her hand on his back. “This… this isn’t… Is it?”

Mike watched Jimmy nearly flip onto his left side making a tight turn. “He sure acts like Jimmy.”

Categories
Stories Travel

Famous Castaways

History.com has 6 stories of individuals marooned at Sea

“Selkirk may have believed that a passing ship would pick him up in a matter of weeks, but he would eventually spend more than four years and four months alone on the island. He passed the time by notching the days and months on a tree, reading his Bible and chasing goats—first for food, and then merely to have something to do. All the while, he kept his eyes peeled for signs of rescue, but the few ships he saw flew the Spanish flag. On one occasion, he was even forced to hide in a tree when Spanish mariners landed on the island to resupply. Selkirk was finally rescued in February 1709, when a band of privateers led by Captain Woodes Rogers stopped at his island. The wild-haired and bearded castaway initially had trouble remembering how to speak, but he went on to become a minor celebrity in 18th century England, and was likely the inspiration for the title character in Daniel Defoe’s 1719 novel “Robinson Crusoe.””



Marooned, 1909

Howard Pyle (1853-1911)

Oil on canvas, 40 x 60 inches

Delaware Art Museum, Museum Purchase, 1912
http://www.delart.org/collections/american-illustration/marooned/

Categories
Stories

A Silver Bullet

I returned the following morning. I always do, or try to, after a night like last night. Sometimes I leave something behind.

Once I found my shirt hanging from a tree. I asked some local boys to throw rocks at it to knock it loose. They happily obliged.

Another time I left behind the smashed window in the door of a butcher’s shop. The next morning, the owner was taking inventory and I offered to help sweep up. He shrugged and turned away. I whispered an apology and then bought the last fresh ham from his wife. I had a bit of a stomachache, but knew I would eat it later.

But this morning at the gas station, I couldn’t find any evidence of misbehavior. In fact, I couldn’t find any evidence that I had been there at all, no hairs in the grass or footprints in the mud, no stray clothes or broken windows.

Was this the right gas station? It had been a gas station, hadn’t it? I checked my empty pockets for one of the notes I sometimes wrote to myself.

The pumps and the hedges and the little store looked familiar. I walked toward the drainage ditch that ran around the back, the direction I would have gone. The grass was not matted down, but looked as if someone had brushed it back into place. And the mud had been smoothed over.

I crouched to look more closely and noticed something shiny: a small blob of metal embedded in the dirt under a branch. I used my fingernail to pry it loose. It felt hot in my hand and I cradled it in the cuff of my sleeve so it wouldn’t touch my skin.

“Find something?” A man’s greasy voice behind me arched my back. I stood and turned. “No.” I shivered and slipped the thing into my pocket.

“Lose something, then?” He wore sunglasses and smiled broadly, standing with his feet spread apart while swirling a small bit of coffee in a large paper cup.

“My… My glasses.” I stuttered, brushing dirt from my jeans.

“Last night?” He asked.

“Uh, no. Two nights ago.”

“Hunh. So why are you looking here now?”

“I… I’ve already looked everywhere else.”

He took a step closer and over his shoulder I caught the eye of a woman pumping gas. But she had no sympathy for me. I started toward the road, but the man stepped in my way. “You know, I lost something last night.” He said. “I wonder if you saw it while you were searching for your glasses.”

He waited for me to ask him what it was, but I just stared at the road, planning how to leave without calling attention to myself. I don’t like being remembered.

The man finally said, “A bit of jewelry. My wife’s. She had a silver necklace with a small… well… sort of bullet-shaped pendant. Well… We had a fight and she tossed it out the window toward that grass there.”

I avoided looking at him. “Didn’t see it.”

“Are you sure you weren’t here last night? There’s something familiar about you. Almost… A smell.”

I tried to laugh. “You’re starting to creep me out, man.”

“Well that makes two of us.”

Standing as close as we were I could smell his breakfast on his breath.

He lowered his shoulders and exhaled slowly. I stepped around him and walked away without looking back.

That night I would have to be much more careful.

Categories
Stories

A Tin Can

I was reduced to crawling through the dirt. My legs and back were done. On the upside, being near the ground meant I could better see any movement among the leaves and trash. Movement meant something living, and that meant food.

I inched along toward a wooded area and my hope grew as I neared a rotting log. I struggled to flip it and saw dozens of larvae and some larger bugs scurrying around. I gleefully reached in and got a fistfull of rotting wood and grubs and picked out the larvae one by one with my lips, as though kissing them. I didn’t chew – just let them slide down my throat.

This was the biggest meal I had had in days, but I suddenly felt even hungrier than before and scrambled around looking for any more possible food. But there was nothing other than some moss, which I sucked for the moisture. I gave up and lay on my back to look at the gray sky. After a while I pulled out my prized possession: my Can of the Unknown. There was no label. It was the size of a standard-sized can of beans or soup, or dog food. After the grubs I knew I didn’t need to delve into my backup quite yet.

Over the past few weeks I had spent many hours guessing what was in the can. It sloshed a little more than dog food, but a little less than soup. My hope was that it was a can of black beans, and I’d spent many hours envisioning quesadillas.

A few days earlier I had discovered that I had lost my can opener. I thought about opening the can without it: hitting the top with a rock seemed like the best way. But then I thought about how much of the food would spill out and I knew I couldn’t sacrifice a single drop of whatever was inside.

And that is what brought me to the wooded area, which was growing next to what was once a parking lot next to an old mall, where there surely would be a can opener.

The malls were horrific places during those first few days and weeks: Tens of thousands fighting over supplies and food. I made a point of staying clear of malls since then. But time has passed and there simply weren’t as many people around since then.

I rolled over and looked at the front entrance of the mall, where the big glass doors used to be, and made my plan: I would need to stand up and walk in on foot, since I would have to run out if there was trouble. The meal I had just eaten and my little rest had renewed my strength enough to do that, I thought. I wasn’t familiar with this mall, but I assumed they would have a kitchenware store, and I assumed that the store shutters would have been forced open once people remembered that there would be knives inside. And I also assumed that even the desperate looters would not have had need of most of the other items; waffle irons and rubber scrapers don’t have much value when you’re eating bugs.

I made my itinerary

Step 1: Stand up
Step 2: Assess whether I can do this or need more rest, but don’t waste time second-guessing myself. The days of lingering self-doubt are gone.
Step 3: Walk cautiously to the entrance
Step 4: Find the directory if it’s still there and locate a kitchenware store
Step 5: Walk there quickly and quietly, always making note of the exits
Step 6: Find the can opener and then get out fast.

I took a deep breath and had made it to step 2 when I saw them: a group of seven or eight people sitting around a fire. They were behind a Jersey barrier, which is why I hadn’t seen them when I was crawling in. I should have seen or smelled the smoke from their fire, but the air was still so dirty I hadn’t noticed.

It looked like there were at least two women in the group of otherwise young men. There were no children or older people, but I hadn’t seen a child or an old person in weeks. The fire looked like it might be for boiling water, or could it possibly be for cooking? A cooking fire could be a sign of civilization, as was the fact of women and men cooperating together. I had encountered a few groups of only men in the past week and things had ended badly.

I was still studying them when one of them noticed me. I was covered in dirt, and thus well-camouflaged, but there were few leaves on the trees and I wasn’t well concealed when I had stood up. I should have thought of that but starvation has not made me any smarter.

A few of the men in the group stood up to look at me and I could tell from the ease and speed of how they stood that they were well-fed, at least not starving. I didn’t know what to do, but knew that running away would be an invitation to be chased. And I had seen too many human bones in old cooking fires to know how that ends. I could stay where I was, but that wouldn’t give me any advantage, and eventually they would come to me. So I tried to take control and began walking toward them, slowly but as surely as I could. I did not want to look weak. I gave a little wave as though this was a perfectly normal situation. I wanted to shout, “Hello!” but I knew my voice was not strong enough.

I got closer and they looked at me with growing horror and I saw them get into defensive postures. I was not prepared for this – being the feared instead of the fearful. I looked down at myself and understood: I was, after all, covered in filth and leaves and blood. And that is when I realized how clean these people were; not freshly-showered by any means, but no smudges on their faces, little dirt on their clothes.

“We don’t have any food to spare.” One of the women said to me. They were pushing me away but I suddenly knew I had to join them. I couldn’t scavenge like an animal anymore, yet I was not one of them. I had to do this. “Oh that’s fine, I have some to share if you want.” I was proud of my bluff as I pulled out my can. They all stared at it unblinking, mouths open.

Finally one of the men asked, “What is it?” and he quickly grabbed it from my hands.

I couldn’t speak.

“Thanks.” One of the women said. “See you around.”

My advantage was gone and I was being pushed out again.

Finally I said, “I don’t remember. Beans I think. But I know where to get more.”

It was the biggest lie I’ve ever told and I spent the rest of my life trying to make it true.

Categories
Stories

A Darker Horse

The speaker crackles and a voice says, “Hello Finn. Apologies for the circumstances. You understand how privacy is paramount. Your past assignments have shown you have the skill to erase digital histories and now I need you to erase some… for me. This job will require more… delicacy. I’m prepared to triple your rate.”

Finn smiles. “I’m all yours.”

Big Eddie finishes a call with his wife and waves Henry in. “Everything changes when you have kids. So… A very private individual we’ve worked with before asked for you. Said you were discreet.”

“I never…”

Eddie gives an address and another for the dropoff point.

“Don’t write it down. Remember it. They’re paranoid; I don’t care. It’s not my job to care. In fact, it’s my job to not care. Don’t leave the neighborhood until it’s done. They have your pager.”

Finn is done with the first half of the job and calls the pager.

Within half an hour, Henry knocks on the door. “Here for a pickup.”

Finn looks through the peephole and asks for ID. Henry shows his license and she opens.

“Do you want to come in? I just made some iced tea; my grandmother’s recipe.”

Henry drains his glass and sets it on a coaster. “Thanks for the tea. Do you have the package?”

Finn finds the envelope and checks inside to make sure it has the note inside. “So… who is this guy?”

“No clue.” Henry gives a little wave as he trots down the steps. Finn closes the door and decides to investigate Henry Malone.

Henry happily jogs the few blocks to the store, walks to the counter, and shows the envelope to the guy at the register. The man nods and reaches out for the envelope. “Back in two.”

“Pardon?”

“Be back in two hours. Pickup for you then.”

Finn pores through documents online and learns of Big Eddie, how he once helped Henry with an arrest, how Eddie co-signed the mortgage on Henry’s mother’s house.

There’s a knock on the door

“Hey. Sorry. I know it’s late, but I didn’t know how else to get a hold of you. They’re going to get back with a message in a couple hours, and trust me, they don’t like people to sit on it until a day later”

He turned to leave and she called after him. “Well, where are you going now?”

Henry paused.

“You may as well snooze on the couch.”

He pulled himself back up. “I could grab some food. Call it in and I’ll pick it up. What do you want?”

Finn smiled. “Pizza?”

Two hours later Henry returns with the pizza and the envelope with the man’s reply.

Finn reads the reply and Henry asks what it says.

“In my last note I said I was near the end of erasing the virtual information. But that I can’t do anything about paper records. He wrote back that I erased things online but he would take care of erasing everything else.”

Henry squints his eyes. “What is it you do for him?”

She tears up the paper and flushes it. “I ‘depresent’ people. A lot of people. A LOT of people, have done things online that could hurt them if people found out. Teachers who want me to remove every photo of them at a party’; businessmen up for promotion who want all their comments taken down from… let’s say, ‘naughty’ websites. This particular customer seems to have been a bit naughtier than most.”

While Henry eats nearly the entire pizza, Finn researches Big Eddie.

“Did you know a guy named ‘Filippe Hartz?’ or ‘Danny Boyd?'”

Henry swallows. “Yeah. Though I haven’t seen them in a while.”

“They’re dead.”

“What?”

“They were running tripped packages, poisoning anyone who opened them. Those two got too curious.”

“Who sent them?”

“I have a guess.”

“Eddie said I had a reputation for being discreet.”

“It saved your life.”

Finn finishes and writes a reply and Henry runs it to the store.

Henry meets Carl, a runner with a different company, coming out of the corner store.

“Hey Carl, what’ve you got there?”

“Seriously? I can’t talk about that.”

Henry leans in. “It’s that one rich guy though, right? The only one who doesn’t address the envelopes.”

Carl chuckles. “I know a job for him is coming because I get an advance bonus of $50. He tries to be anonymous and that just makes him stand out even more.”

Henry laughs. “Advance bonus? I should work for you guys!”

Henry hangs back and follows Carl to an apartment nearby and notices shadows moving in the first floor window.

Henry texts the address to Finn. While he returns to her place, she checks online and sees the apartment belongs to a hacker she’s met online before, someone named ‘Siphon’.

“He’s good, a very secure system. But look; he’s bragging on a forum that he was hired to double-check the work of another hacker.”

“That must be you!”

“The mystery man wants to know that he’s getting what he’s paid for.”

Henry naps on the couch while Finn works, uneasy and extra careful, knowing that someone is watching over her shoulder.

Finn is disturbed by the text and images she’s finding.

She finally recognizes the face in the photos, a politician named John Whitney, who is running for Congress this year.

Finn feels sick about what she’s seen, but is finally done. Henry runs a final message.

Finn wonders what Siphon thought of her work and looks for him online. But there’s no trace of him now.

Henry runs to Siphon’s apartment but it’s empty. He runs past the corner store but it’s closed. He then heads to Eddie’s and asks about Carl.

“Didn’t you hear? Carl’s missing. His mom called the police.”

Henry runs to Finn’s apartment but stops short when he sees two men loitering by the front door. He sneaks around to the back, climbs through a window into the laundry room, and runs up the stairwell.

Henry tells Finn the news and says, “We’ve got to go. Now.”

Finn grabs her laptop and phone and they leave the lights on. They take the elevator to the basement and leave through the cellar door to the alley.

Finn is breathless by the time they reach Henry’s. They see a suspicious man in the lobby and find an all-night cafe where Finn can get online.

Henry and Finn make it to Big Eddie’s office and show him the evidence. He hides them and they tell him everything. He makes some calls and Finn goes online.

“Can you reverse the changes you made?”

“No. But I can do worse than that.”

Finn posts photos and creates transcripts using the politician’s real name and face, recreates online personas.

Within hours, the media goes crazy. By mid-morning, John Whitney announces he will not be seeking office.

Eddie hands Henry $1,500. “You two ought to leave town for a while.”

Finn reaches over and tugs Henry’s sleeve. “I’ve always wanted to go to Alaska.”

Categories
Space Stories

Discussing Sci-Fi Storytelling & World Building with Writer Jon Spaihts

A rewarding interview with one of the writers of the ‘Alien’ prequel, ‘Prometheus’, Jon Spaihts:

Discussing Sci-Fi Storytelling & World Building with Writer Jon Spaihts

His bit about the central predicament defining the protagonist is obvious, yet insightful.

And he goes on about making narratives compeling:
“There are three motives of story that matter: having something that you hope for, having something that you fear, or having a burning question that you need answered. Any one of them is sufficient. If you can have more than one of them running at one time, or all three—you can be afraid of one thing and fearful of another and desperate to understand some mystery that’s been dangled in front of you, then you are maximally engaged, all three motors running.”

Categories
Stories

Zebulon

A ChoiceScript game I wrote in November 2010 has been ported to an app!

To get a taste of what it’s about, play Zebulon online, or get the iPhone or Andriod app


iTunes customers have given it 4.5 stars!

“Brings back good memories!… Back before computers and video games were common place, these books were such a fun way to spend time. Decent writing and lots of fun choices to make, about to read it again and see how it ends this time.”

“Fun adventure… Good story, a number of different choices with consequences, and a chance to name your own starship – goldfish not included. Thanks for creating a fun app!”

“Really good… I really enjoyed this adventure! It’s absolutely one of the best choice games I’ve ever played! Really well written, good job all the way around.”


More information at http://www.choiceofgames.com/2011/12/announcing-zebulon/

Or see the original entry from Nov. 2010:
http://acetio.com/node/422