Tag Archives: science-fiction

Pay to Play Pedagogy

I’m back again. Don’t worry, I haven’t died or given up writing. On the contrary, I’ve been hard at work on several novels I’ve been writing since last fall. They’re almost done, and I’m hoping to get back to writing for the blog more regularly.

ff186-sarah-potter

copyright Sarah Potter

Pay to Play Pedagogy

Exams at BDV For-Profit High School were about to begin. Jamie donned his VR goggles. The scene changed to a snowy forest.

A Viking charged him, ax raised, shouting “Imperative!”

“Die!” Jamie screamed and stabbed it.

Another ran from his right. “Future!”

“I will destroy you!” The Viking died like the first.

An arrow whistled from the darkness. As he died, Jamie saw the words Past Perfect written on the shaft. He had had problems with that before.

Please pay $5.00 or get an F. Jamie hit pay. He only had $30 for the exam. He needed to do better.

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Amateur Night at the Cantina

Well, I’m not dead, in case any of you were wondering. It wouldn’t be totally implausible, since I dropped off the face of the blogging world for about 3.5 months. Partially, I needed a break, and I have been hard at work on a few large writing projects. Also, I felt bad about posting Friday Fictioneers stories when I didn’t have time to read anyone else’s.

I don’t know if I can come back at full strength, but I will try to post more regularly, if anyone is still around to read my stories.

ff183-bjorn-rudberg

copyright Bjorn Rudberg

Amateur Night at the Cantina

I shuffled onto the cantina’s stage, clutching my plasma cello with sweaty hands. Hundreds of eyes stared out at me from the gloomy bar, whole constellations of varying colors, shapes and sizes.

I started with some Beethoven, but I quickly felt an undertone of discontent grow in the air. I switched to some Trebellium orchestral music. It was so soaring and grand, it could make your heart weep, but the anger only grew.

“Play the song!” someone finally shouted.

That song. I hated it, but I had no choice if I wanted to escape alive.

Sigh.

I began to play.

(The idea for this story came from a scene from Family Guy’s Blue Harvest, where they joke that in the Mos Eisley cantina, they only play one song.)


Oranges for ET

FF182 Jan Marler Morrill

copyright Jan Marler Morrill

Traitor.

That’s been my nickname for six months now. Hey, I’m just a fruit seller, making a living. Maybe even a profit.

“Morning,” I say to the first alien. Twenty are lined up behind him. He slings his rifle, holds up twelve fingers, and I bag up a dozen oranges in exchange for a glowing cube which I guess is money. I’ve got 518 so far.

Later when the aliens all die, scientists discover that the Vitamin C was slowly poisoning them. Suddenly I’m a hero.

The government is really curious about those glowing cubes.

Now the real profit comes.

 


At Least We Share the Same Sun

<message sent 10:34:04 SST, July 13, 2144: Europa Station 5> How are you these days?

 

 

<message sent 11:18:23 SST, July 13, 2144: New Alba, PA, UNAS> I’m okay. Busy, as always. You?

 

 

<message sent 12:04:39 SST, July 13, 2144: Europa Station 5> Busy too.

 

 

<message sent 12:50:08 SST, July 13, 2144: New Alba, PA, UNAS> When do you think you can come visit next? Everyone keeps asking about you. The kids keep growing like weeds. Harris is walking now, you know.

 

<message sent 13:35:56 SST, July 13, 2144: Europa Station 5> He is? That’s great. I don’t know when I can come back. We opened a new mine last week. The new crew’s a bunch of morons. Gotta keep them in my sights or they’ll end up blowing up the whole moon.

 

<message sent 15:02:43 SST, July 13, 2144: New Alba, PA, UNAS> Yeah. I understand.

 

<message sent 15:49:12 SST, July 13, 2144: Europa Station 5> Are you mad? Look, I’m doing my best. This is better than Alpha Centauri.

 

<message sent 17:19:00 SST, July 13, 2144: Europa Station 5> I know it’s not ideal, but I’m literally 99.9999% closer to home than I was there. There are shuttles every month now instead of every three years. You can get a message here in 45 minutes instead of 4 years.

 

<message sent 19:33:45 SST, July 13, 2144: New Alba, PA, UNAS> We just miss you, that’s all. But please don’t feel like I’m judging you. You’ve got a great job there as mine supervisor. You are doing great things, I’m sure.

 

<message sent 20:19:55 SST, July 13, 2144: Europa Station 5> Actually, to be honest, I feel like I’m in exile here. Europa is fine, but it’s lonely. I moved to be closer, but I feel further away than ever. Now I’m just far away from everything. Also, there are no butterflies here. It’s a minor point, I guess, but you should have seen the butterflies we had on Alpha Centauri. They were beautiful enough to make you tear up. I’m sure you’ve seen pictures, but pictures, even videos, don’t do them justice.

 

<message sent 20:21:13 SST, July 13, 2144: Europa Station 5> Sorry for that. Just getting things off my chest.

 

<message sent 21:29:51 SST, July 13, 2144: New Alba, PA, UNAS> Sorry you feel so down. If it makes you feel any better, I do like having you in the same solar system. After 4 lightyears, 390 million miles seems like just down the street. Gustav even wanted to get a telescope, so he could see you. I told him we could try.

 

<message sent 22:16:21 SST, July 13, 2144: Europa Station 5> I’ll wave sometimes, in case he’s looking at me. 🙂 Well, even if I can’t come by for dinner every week, things are improving little by little. At least we share the same sun now.

 

<message sent 23:03:49 SST, July 13, 2144: New Alba, PA, UNAS> Yeah. 🙂 Maybe someday we’ll even share the same moon again.

 


How to Make a Suffocake

Well, I’m finally back, I think. I took a few unplanned weeks off for various reasons, including travel, sickness and general busyness. Luckily, the semester is mostly over, so I should have a bit more time in the future.

#1:     Explain to captain that cake would boost morale for space station crew.

#2:     Listen to lecture how flour would clog life support.

#3:     Offer to temporarily turn off life support in galley.

#4:     Wait for him to stop laughing.

#5:     Pretend to drop idea.

#6:     Wait for everyone to sleep.

#7:     Take smuggled ingredients from personal locker.

#8:     Preheat oven stolen from lab.

#9:     Turn off life support in galley.

#10:   Mute alarms.

#11:   Take deep breath and start mixing ingredients.

#12:   Try in vain to clean up flour floating everywhere.

#13:   Start feeling woozy.

#14:   Put cake in oven.

#15:   Faint.

#16:   Get rescued.

#17:   Endure reprimand.

#18:   Enjoy perfectly spherical suffocake with crew.


Not Your Average Plane Ride

The world looks peaceful from up here, the irregular polygons of the old fields and forest divisions looking like they’ve been cut by a toddler with a pair of stolen scissors: straight lines, weird angles. But this is the exclusion zone and the people have gone and left their straight lines behind them. And if I fail in my mission, all of them, every road and boundary line, are doomed to be a circle in the end.

“How far out are we?” I ask the pilot through the headset.

“We’ll have visual contact any moment now,” she says. The plane shakes and I look at her questioningly.

She sees the anxiety on my face, shakes her head, smiles. “Just normal turbulence. We wouldn’t feel anything this far out.”

Of course. I know that, but I’ve spooked myself. I look out and there it is like a brown smear on the horizon, the outer edge of the accretion disk.

Over the next few minutes, the edge of the circle gets larger until I can see individual objects in the whirling maelstrom. They look like grains of sand from here but I know they’re probably rocks the size of cars, houses, maybe even the size of battleships.

“My grandparents had a record player,” the pilot says. “We used to put gummy bears on the records and bet how long they’d stay on. Every time I fly out here, that’s what it reminds me of.”

“Yeah, except when you were done, the record player didn’t eat the gummy bears,” I say. She smiles.

“You don’t seem scared.”

She shrugs. “I was in the Marines.”

“Yeah, but this is a black hole we’re talking about. It seems a bit more, I don’t know, existential.”

“Slipping in the bathtub can be pretty existential for the individual.” She brings the plane up higher and the black eye of the accretion disk comes into view: the event horizon.

“They say it’s slowed its expansion,” the pilot says conversationally, as if talking about the economy. “Down to a few feet a day.”

I think of the single missile we carry in a special mounting under the right wing, wonder if this one—this particular hair-brained idea of some engineer in some windowless lab will finally save the world.

“You said you’d been out here before,” I say.

She nods. “Ten times.”

“I heard, you know, that some planes got trapped by it.”

“That’s classified.” Then, “four of them. I knew the pilots.”

“Sorry.”

Shrug.

“Do you have any hope that any of these will work? To stop it, I mean?”

“I have to,” she says. “We all do. I feel like we’re those gummy bears. We just have to hang on, hang on to the spinning record with all our might until somebody stops it.”

“What if no one can?” I ask. She doesn’t reply.

We are approaching the edge of the accretion disk and I ready the missile that will take this latest Hail Mary gadget into the heart of the black hole: science desperately trying to fix what science has wrought. I have no idea what the device does, just how to deploy it.

I glance over at the pilot. I wish I knew her name. It seems like if you might die with someone, you should at least know their name, but it seems awkward to ask now.

The screen in front of me starts to blink with a digital countdown. Ten seconds to go. I ready my hand, praying an indistinct prayer for success. The computer buzzes and I press the button. The missile streaks away, a fiery arrow headed towards that terrible bullseye.

The pilot banks and we’re away, speeding back towards civilization.

“Aren’t you going to wait and see if it works?” I ask.

“What’s the point? If it does, we’ll know soon enough and if not, it’s a waste of fuel.”

I strain my neck to look back. “Wait! Something’s happening.”

She banks hard and the black hole comes back into view. It is shrinking now, the accretion disk flailing and collapsing back to earth. Dust rises like burnt offering prayers.

The black hole evaporates. The pilot flies us over what is now a massive crater. At the bottom, a mega-volcanic column of ash is rising as magma touches air for the first time.

“Go ahead,” she says. “Do the honors. Radio back that you saved the world.”

“We all did.” I pick up the radio, then hesitate. “My name’s Tod.”

“Emmy.”

We shake hands, grinning, then Emmy turns the plane and we head back to hope.


Daffodil Steaks

Frankie’s makes the best daffodil steaks. I go down there Sundays and get a 16-ouncer.

“That’s murder, you know,” a guy nearby said as I finished my meal, wiping canary-colored juice from my lips.

“Hey, I’m eating here.”

“They have feelings. All flowers do. I hear them cry at night, mourning their lost brothers.”

Wordlessly I got up and paid by retinal scan, winking to add a tip.

As I drove home past fields of towering daffodils, I rolled down my window. Maybe it was the wind, but I thought I heard weeping.

I rolled the window quickly back up.

 


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