Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Perspective, Very Short Science Fiction #13

It was something of a locked room mystery. A planetoid like Gabor V is like a locked room, a small sphere that supports no life other than visiting miners, with no way on or off other than the mining camp platform. How could four men have disappeared without trace in such a place?

I was sent there to give me a break from covering the Aristocrat Wars in West London, my editor thought I was cracking up, and he was right. Bounding along the low gravity surface of Gabor V, alone for the first time in six years, I felt a joy I had forgotten existed in the six years I'd been embedded with the Loyalist troops. Below me precious stones of all kinds glittered in the brilliant light of the three local suns, even through my protective visor a carpet of treasure reflected back up at me. I was free to film myself with as many jewels as I desired, I had no hope of taking any home with me, Gabor V really was a locked room. It looked like being a fun and interesting assignment, and a different perspective on the petty wealth and petty wars of Earth.

One stone jumped out at me, brighter than the rest, I picked it up. Immediately, without thinking, I activated the camera on my suit, began recording my thoughts. This stream of nonsense was beamed to my ship, to be edited at leisure later. 

"My high school physics tells me that this stone is impossible. It's like a small solar system, a glowing star in the middle of the stone, approximately twenty tiny sparks of light bouncing around the edges, glittering crazily. Where is the energy coming from? This isn't possible . . . I feel like I'm being hypnotised by the lights . . . I nearly said I feel like I'm being drawn into it, I read too much science fiction as a kid."

Then I was drawn into it. 

Suddenly I was compressed to nothing but a point of light, inside a tiny stone. I somehow knew that I was there until my energy ran out, that I could end it quickly by falling into the sun at the heart of the stone, or deny that malicious sun the use of my energy by flying around the edges of the stone for as long as I could. I could tell that's what all the other points of light around me were doing. I wondered how long it took?

A locked room mystery solved, a new life form discovered, what a story! The story of a lifetime, the story of a career. I didn't know if the few minutes of recording I'd taken would be found in time, if a way to release me and my fellow prisoners would be found in time. It took ten days. Ten days in limbo in exchange for fame and fortune. It wasn't worth it. In my mind I'm still inside that stone, nothing but a point of light. Perhaps I received a little too much perspective on that assignment.



Techmate, Very Short Science Fiction #12

Their technology was so far ahead of ours, they should have defeated us easily, but they'd never encountered men like us before. 

In their part of the galaxy war was a game for rich folks, largely bloodless, a civilized display of military superiority enough to ensure a dignified surrender and a transfer of power. This was known as "techmate", when the superior technology of one party made resistance a waste of time and energy for the other party. The aristocracy of the defeated planet retained their positions, paid a percentage of their profits as negotiated in the terms of surrender, often wealthier for the new trade with the victors. 

Occasionally proof of military superiority was called for. The people of a town would be evacuated, their town destroyed in an interesting and convincing manner, then the town rebuilt, improved and modernised, at the expense of the victors, propaganda that never failed to win the common people over to their new masters. During one war a wag in a small town painted a target across the entire market square, inviting the enemy to destroy and rebuild the old and worn metropolis.The general of the invaders enjoyed the joke, surveyed the town, moved the people out, destroyed it, then rebuilt it, but instead of improving it he rebuilt the town exactly as it had been. Such style and humour could make or break a general in that part of the galaxy.

We researched our enemy when they challenged us. We explained to them that we didn't care how they did things at home, we would fight to the last man, woman and child and never surrender. They seemed to see this as jolly good sabre rattling, continued to prosecute their war in their customary manner. Of course we infiltrated their ships, assassinated anyone of importance, sabotaged everything we could get our hands on, scrambled their communications until they ended up firing upon their own ships. 

They departed, half the number that had first attacked, shaken by our barbarity, determined to return and teach us a lesson. They'll never teach that lesson. We learned enough of their technology to begin a renaissance of our once proud military tradition. Soon we will follow them back to their section of the galaxy, with our own new technology,and we won't be offering any civilized rules of conduct. We'll take all their planets, all their trade, a new empire. There will be no concession of techmate, the king will be taken and killed. 

They've never encountered men like us.


Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Froogle And Spamazon, Very Short Science Fiction #11

I've been researching science fiction from the twentieth century. One of the common themes is a future dystopia where two leviathan corporations control the known universe, the corporate wars between them. Often this is depicted as occurring by our time in this twenty third century.

As we know, nothing of the kind happened. Of course it is considered politic to gain approval from Froogle and Spamazon before any major decisions are made, but everyone knows that's just a sensible thing to do.


Saturday, 29 August 2015

Local Customs, Very Short Science Fiction #10

The blizzards on the planet Dobiegillis Five, made of microscopic ice crystals harder than diamonds, shredded two of our geologists so completely that we couldn't find their remains. At first we thought they'd been abducted by the Sringin, the reptilian locals, until they took us out and sifted some sand to find some metal thread from the protective clothing the men had been wearing. We'd sourced that gear from planets with the most violent climates in the galaxy, but the blizzard had turned it to scrap in seconds. 

We designed a weather station, shut ourselves up behind a double force field whenever a blizzard even threatened. Only the perfect, giant diamonds we were mining made the on again, off again work schedule worth the effort. 

One day we'd been locked in for thirty six hours when we saw two Sringin approaching our dome, walking casually through the blizzard with nothing but their scales to protect them. We let them in, opening one field, closing it behind them, then opening and closing the second field. Of course they had no idea what their scales were made of, they'd always had them and therefore didn't notice how extraordinary they were. Our request for samples caused profound diplomatic troubles, the Sringin culture was quite particular about the sanctity of their bodies.

We finally obtained one scale, following one of the local fencing tournaments. One Sringin had severed a limb from another, claimed the appendage as his trophy, but after sifting the sand as we'd been shown we found our precious sample. These sword fights weren't as barbaric as they might sound, Sringin limbs grow back in a few days. 

After analysing the scale for two days we were naturally pretty excited, we had discovered how to construct the most inpenetrable material in the galaxy, the potential profits made our diamond mine seem a petty affair. It was only then, after two days, that it hit us. What the hell were their swords made of? We'd only discovered the second most inpenetrable material in the galaxy. 

The Singrin happily gave us a handful of swords to study, pleased to be asked for something their taboos allowed them to supply. The swords were made of nothing more than a low grade steel. 

Sringin scales had evolved for one specific purpose, to allow life to survive Dobiegillis Five blizzards. Other than that the material wasn't good for much, so we went back to diamond mining, our hopes for a profitable patent dashed. Just the same we made up a couple of suits, boots, gloves and helmets to make our lives easier. The first two men to wear these suits outside the dome died sudden and horrific deaths. It turned out Sringin scales had also evolved to use wind friction to heat cold reptilian blood. Warm human blood trapped inside this material boiled within minutes.

Sickened by the whole affair we sold our rights to the mine. We gave the new owners a stern warning, to beware of the blizzards, and to respect the local customs regarding the bodies of the Singrin.




Friday, 28 August 2015

Sunny Side Up, Very Short Science Fiction #9

The tradition of laughing loudly when the president enters a room? How did it start? Well, that's an odd story.

It began over five hundred years ago. You have to keep in mind that back then we hadn't made contact with any extra terrestrial life. We were pretty naive, galactically  speaking. Galactically wasn't even a word back then. 

So we'd made contact with the Splurgh system, the Splurgh civilization. After years of learning how to communicate with each other they suddenly announced a diplomatic mission, within a year they were landing. They landed in America, the Americans having located them and lead the communications. Dignitaries from around Earth were present for the auspicious occasion, but when the Splurghs came out of their ship everyone laughed. It was a moment in human history that can only be seen as poor form.

It wasn't anyone's fault, not really. No one knew what to expect, but no one expected an intelligent and more advanced species than ourselves to look like fried eggs, sunny side up. That the hovercraft they used for transport looked like white dinner plates just made it worse. 

Looking back from our point of view it all seems a bit childish. We're accustomed to species from other solar systems looking different to us, but they weren't back then. 

How does this explain why we laugh loudly when the president enters a room? Oh, that, well, it had to be explained, somehow, what laughter meant. Fortunately the Splurgh, as you know, have no concept of humour, so the excuse was never seen through by them. Someone, under pressure and on the spur of the moment, lied that laughter was the highest form of human respect. As long as the Splurgh diplomats were here everyone had to laugh whenever they, or our own leaders, entered a room. The Splurgh appeared to be most gratified by it, according to the records of the occasion. Somehow the habit just kinda' stuck. 

As it turns out it was an important moment in human history in another way. This tradition, laughing loudly at the most powerful man on Earth, has proved to be a civilizing influence, a lesson in egalitarian humility that has helped lead to the great culture we are so proud of today.


Thursday, 27 August 2015

Ten Thousand Years Of Economists, Very Short Science Fiction #8

We analysed ten thousand years of recorded human history from all throughout the galaxy. We couldn't find one example of an economist apologising when his or her theories or predictions proved inaccurate.

We feel we are on the verge of defining another constant of the universe.


Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Strange Fruit, Very Short Science Fiction #7

Of course they should have been killed. They should have been killed quietly and immediately, but at the time they didn't appear to be any kind of threat. 

As far as we knew they were three vagabonds who had miraculously survived a ship crash on an outer planet, Shatner Seven, where they'd gone to explore for minerals and other resources. We heard that they'd returned changed, somehow different to when they'd headed out there, but all those guys who go out exploring are crazy to begin with, we just assumed they'd come back crazier. 

We heard rumours of some strange fruit, strange shape, strange colour, strange fruit, but only rumours. Apparently these three castaways were forced to eat it to survive, against their better judgement, then immediately after it had been digested they suddenly saw a simple and logical method for repairing their ship. Once we realised that simple method was to invent an entirely new and revolutionary type of space drive we directly sent missions to Shatner Seven, to find no sign of any strange fruit. We learned later that those three explorers had returned, removed every fruit tree, then disappeared from sight. 

The next we heard of them was what you heard, their announcement that they were now the government of the galaxy. Their manifesto was so simple and logical that no one saw much reason to resist them, their brilliant military robots took care of the short rebellion of the old government. 

Of course they should have been killed. They have the fruit, as will their children, they are different to us and always will be. We are now the slaves of benevolent dictators, as our children will be. 

Does the fruit really exist? Who knows? I can only believe it does. Could three vagrant fools have taken control of the entire galaxy without it? 

Of course they should have been killed.