Tag Archives: scifi

A Day of Minor Inconvenience

Flash Fiction
J.A. Waters
988 Words

A rushing crowd of rain-glistening umbrellas pushed past Theo. He was obtrusive in his slow stroll and enjoyed knowing the fact. Through a crosswalk break in the crowd he spotted his car and almost sighed to know he would soon be out from the rain. His cool walk was a break from long queue lines and sign-your-name-here-please.

Despite those misgivings, he opened his door, sat inside, and flipped on windshield wipers and the radio. As he settled into the stop and go pattern of traffic, the weight of everyday nestled back atop his shoulders, a vague comfort in itself.

At the next stoplight he sat there musing about traffic and automobiles. Roads were just long queues, and everyone was waiting in line to get to their next attraction. A hankering made his next attraction a coffee shop for a bagel. The rain had stopped by the time he stepped outside, but the clouds had begun taking on a huge vortex of motion. It looked like the top of a tornado with no funnel. Through the gaps in angry gray a deepening red had started glowing ominously.

Making sure to lock his doors, Theo pulled out his phone and pointed it at an angle to the heavens. The scene would make a nifty picture, framed so by tall buildings and the budding trees of spring. A horseman, steed charging forward at some insane gallop, moved into the shot just as he pressed the shutter. The image on his tiny little screen was somewhat shocking and he became lost in the wavy image of electrons, forgetting to look up and see the real thing.

Beyond Theodore’s little screen the stallion and rider were causing something of a ruckus. The horse was huge, twice that of a normal breed, its rider similarly a giant. Cars and people and objects of minor-note were crushed and sent flying at the furious contact of hoof and sword. The sword, ridiculously long and wicked, was held by the rider, hooded under a black cloak.

A great pulsing sphere of flame then exploded forth from beneath the rider’s hood. It flew into a very tall building that didn’t offer a hint of resistance and plowed on down the block. Soot and ash and things-on-fire fell from the skies.

Rain started falling again, and it was perhaps this that brought Theodore out of the distant study of his cell phone’s screen. Quite the opposite of that cooling drizzle from before, this rain sparked and smoked, melting away at whatever it touched. It made sense to run into the Pizza Shop near where he’d parked. The coffee shop was a block down.

A pizza, still piping hot, sat on the counter as Theo walked inside. It seemed like a good time to sit down and take things in. Theo nabbed the pizza and found an empty table. Outside, dust and debris scattered in a great cloud as towering skyscrapers tumbled into one another. Theo got up and closed the door. Dust could’ve crept in and ruined his pizza.

Finishing up his meal, Theodore left a decent tip and stepped outside. He jiggled the keys to his car, peering at the twisted hulk of scrap metal that was now parked against the curb in place of his vehicle. A moment of thought, chin scratching included, helped him remember that there was a bike shop nearby with decent prices. Nearby a gryphon, glowing faint blues and whites, stepped over some rubble, rider on its back peering off into the distance.

Theo wondered how a person tamed a gryphon, and why glowing things made anything cooler. While thinking he ducked down an alley that should shortcut across the block toward the bike shop. A glance at the sky showed soft bluish-white light mingling with the festering red, clouds scattered and that massive spiral somewhat broken.

Coming out onto the street, a crosswalk blinked its big red hand. A dozen or so winged beings flitted about the sky in quite the tussle. Presently the crosswalk went green and Theodore jogged across to the shop, groaning to see “Closed” hung on its window. He knocked on the door a couple of times, muttered, and then used a discarded umbrella to whack at the glass.

After the first crack it took a couple of kicks to offer up the building’s insides. Behind him, things exploded and he glanced over his shoulder to look. A squat cyclone of fire raged through several buildings across the street, ridden atop by some figure that was vaguely human aside from the face full of rotating eyes.

There was a vague feeling of discomfort about being in view of the multi-eyed fire guy, so Theodore quickly crawled through the shattered door. He pushed a rack of hats in front of the door to hide his presence. Then he began sitting on bike models to try them out, judging the comfort of the seat and reach of his legs to the pedals and ground.

It took a couple of tries, but finally he found one that suited and rolled it to the section with air-pumps and tools. He tightened bolts, added a horn, and aired up the tires to approximate recommended PSI levels. Theo left with an IOU placed by the cash register.

Riding through the streets took some effort, what with a lot of cracked cement, dead bodies, and fallen buildings, but Theodore managed to avoid running over most. He really couldn’t remember his appointments without the list on his car’s rear view mirror, so he’d have to head back to his office and check. Arriving at a bridge over a wide river, he felt disappointment to see it missing its middle.

Oh well, he thought, maybe it was time to call it a day anyway. Turning around, he started peddling for home. It’d be nice to just relax for a while and check out a movie or two.

Before The Fan

Flash Fiction
J.A. Waters
2000 Words

“There’s too much trash in this city.”

Jacob leaned over the roof’s edge and peered into the alley below. “Mmhm. Desconci is considered fifth in the world for street refuse.” He wiggled his helmet and tightened the seal for the thousandth time that evening.

Gina counted her steps backward, five from the edge. She glanced at Jake with a scowl. “Don’t be an ass. And why are you even here today? Transfer get denied? Again?” Not waiting for an answer, she raced forward on her three cybernetic legs. The mid-foot seated on the building’s seam and snapped her into space.

Watching a bum burrowing in foil wrapping and trash, Jake glanced up in time to see his partner tiptoe into a perfect landing on the next roof. “Not denied, exactly. They just want to review that incident with the runaway train.” He jogged backwards, boots whirring as they switched their energy preset. Sprinting for the gap, he grimaced at the sudden velocity from his suit’s jump motors. The pressurized heel-plates sent him sprawling.

Mechanical hips cocked to one side, Gina was watching him as he cleared the four-lane gap. There was a smirk on her face as he tumbled into a rolling landing. “Do you actually have to roll, or is it supposed to be some kind of flair?”

“Definitely not flair. I just hate using air brakes. My suit always over-compensates. Like hitting a wall.” Walking to the next edge, he peered at a street crowded with traffic, people, and mobile shops. Transparent sections of the road flashed as trains sped beneath the world. He frowned. “If I do get the transfer, I will miss these views.”

“Just the views?” Gina tilted her head.

Jake pressed his lips together. They had been friends for years, but they hardly hung out anymore. Their lives had been on separate paths for longer than he wanted to admit. Their priorities had been changing. Beliefs too. Though, maybe their beliefs had never actually meshed. “I mean, I’ll miss you too. You’ve always been nearby, and it’ll suck not having that.”

Gina chuckled. The laugh was just a little off. A digital version—no matter how well synthesized—never seemed quite as rich as the analog. “I’ll miss you too, Jakey. And I’m sure that train incident won’t be an issue. You saved lives that day. Not many would’ve thought of the resistor replacements. Circuit components! Seriously. Nobody checks electrical that deep anymore.”

“Well, you were the one that slowed the car so I could—” Jake’s suit started beeping.

A message began playing across empty air from Gina’s projectors. She sighed at the fuzzy lights. “Shit, will have to get them to tweak the focus again.”

All units on alert. Two blocks within Rutherford Square. A hostile land dispute has been initiated.

The display closed with a wave of her hand.

Jake tapped the air for further queries. His own arm-display beeped as searches began filling the queue. “Huh. Land dispute. Ah! This guy actually has a valid claim. It’s been in Department for, oof, twelve years? No wonder he’s active disputing.”

“Do you see this?” Gina’s glowing eyes flickered in a way that usually indicated rapid information transfer. She snorted. “Valid claim or not, dispatch says he’s threatening to blow up a building! That ain’t justified.” She grimaced. “I don’t have the patience for these folks anymore. Starting to think people are the biggest bugs in our system.”

Jake sighed. “I mean, doesn’t it make sense for someone to get frustrated? With a system so broken?”

Gina grunted. “Hmf. Plenty of people get things done just fine with how things are organized.”

“Maybe,” muttered Jake. He shifted to the immediate purpose. “But anyway, we’re the closest unit! We can probably elevate this through Systems Channel and get his dispute settled properly. There’s bound to be an annulment or memorandum we can use to bypass some of the BS. That’ll probably settle this whole issue.”

“Really? You want to accept? He’s a violent protestor!” Gina rolled her eyes. “Again, you’re not even supposed to be here today.”

“Well, you don’t have to, I mean, I could go alo—”

“Oh, fine!” Gina’s posture stiffened. Her internal mechanisms whirred with the activation of additional circuits. Leaning forward, she dropped off the edge of the building. Slipping down the side of the building, her form zipped toward the street.

“Gina!” Saving his queries with a gesture, Jake did a quick double stomp that set his boots into a ticking frenzy of preparation. A curse slipped under his breath as he dashed headlong over the roof’s end. He aimed for the top of a car. They needed to talk about their approach. He still needed to contact Systems. Hoping there was still time, he queued up a message tagging the man’s property file for an emergency review.

Sailing through the air, he barely registered as his boots screeched like old rubber tires. He hit the vehicle with minimal impact; his air brakes redirected momentum forward and slowed him just enough. Jake spread his arms wide to balance, then disengaged his shoes with a wiggle of his big toe. With the driver’s help—they had slammed the brakes—he arced in a leap over several cars and hit the sidewalk sprinting. A man careened on a tricked-out electroBMX and avoided Jake with a quick wall-ride up a building. Others, distracted pedestrians and annoyed delivery drones, dodged out of the way.

But where they dodged Jake, those same pedestrians fled from the swathe-cutting knife that was Gina’s mechanical form. Nobody wanted to be in the way of a speeding Desconci Policy Enforcer. Gina’s grafted armor made her weigh as much as a small motorcycle, and she had several times the power. Diving out of the way was a sensible reaction.

Jake finally remembered to turn on his helmet’s sirens. They blared with his shoulders flashing as he trailed behind his partner’s vastly-more-nimble form. Annoyed with the busy sidewalk, she jumped and caught a light pole, then swung herself to the side of a nearby building. She started darting between poles to window ledges to bilboards. Her feet stopped touching the ground. Jake muttered into his mic, “You’d be pretty fucking great at Don’t Touch the Lava.”

They rounded an intersection that led straight into the contested square. It was full of advertisement boards, city park attractions, and instamake vending machines. No wonder the man’s claim had gone ignored. It was prime business space. Still, it was maybe half an acre. The city could do with the loss of at least one sales zone. He spoke into his mic, “Okay, seems like he’s just waiting for some kind of response. Let’s hold back a sec and see if Systems responds…”

Gina ignored him. With one final snap of cybernetic muscle, she twisted through the air and barreled into the man making the land protest. Undoubtedly, she was focused on the near-weapon he was wielding. It was a PulseHammer: an advanced jackhammer that could practically disintegrate a human body.

The man went flying. His left arm snapped at the elbow. Bone ripped through skin and cloth on his upper arm. Gina’s three legs pinned the protestor down by his three uninjured limbs, “You must remain silent and still. You have the privilege of being an offender of Policy 55E.10-Golf and hereby have given up any rights—those paid for or due by your citizenship grade and/or grades.”

The sudden violence made Jacob screech to a halt. He gaped as Gina hunched over the quaking citizen.

Growling, the violator kept writhing as if his arm hadn’t been broken. “Fuck you! I got papers from generations ago that I own this land! Screw your damned policy and the whole book under it!” A tiny spider-bot crawled out of the man’s chest pocket. He was wearing a one-piece flight-suit in a dark gray-blue cloth. The spider skittered down the man’s body and seated itself into a small output terminal at the stomach of his suit.

Gina’s eyes went wide and her third leg kicked at the spider-bot with precise urgency. She missed. The spider ducked into the suit’s connection-port too quickly. She blinked—probably snapping a photo—and then she turned to run. “Move! Go! We have to clear the area!”

Over their comms, Gina was reciting procedural tactic numbers and sub-notes.

Jake was still frozen to the spot from before. Their specialty was adjusting electro-mechanical policy issues, though they could settle any policy dispute in a pinch. They weren’t supposed to physically apprehend people. They weren’t supposed to attack anyone. Nobody did that anymore. Not when you could just foam a person and roll them to a de-escalation tank.

Gina was shouting at him, “Tactical Response Alpha! Condition B! Now, Jake!” A wailing siren sprang to life around them. The square’s advertising flickered and became warnings: Alert! Alert! Clear the area! There is danger of explosive force in this area!”

Shaking his head, Jake crouched and switched boot modes. That spider-bot looked familiar? Some sort of activator? A control unit that could attach anywhere. Then his suit gave a whirr, the boots went chunk, and he was suddenly vaulting through the air. The crisis sensors were moving him whether he meant to or not. Landing next to his partner, he crouched and gave a quizzical look. “What did you see? Why are we running? And why are you being so… aggressive?”

She gave him a look. It seemed to be a mix of confusion and anger. “Aggressive?” Her lip curled. “Just, stay down and watch out. I called in crowd control.”

That crowd control arrived on drone platforms within moments. They were all robots, though someone was usually managing the group. Several had the long-handled foam dispensers, and those were spraying as soon as their feet touched the ground. Some people always resisted leaving, even if there was actual danger nearby. Luckily, most of the square’s patrons were running to clear the area.

Raising his head over their cover, Jake spied the land-dispute man. There was a dull red glow coming from his chest. The control spider had disappeared; had it burrowed inside of the man? “Shit, I think it’s—” The man began screaming.

And then an explosion thumped into being. Gore and concrete thudded around them. At the core of the man’s now-pulped body, the spider-bot’s brain was still intact and still glowing. Rapid burst transmissions pinged through Jake’s communications shield. A litany of grievances were included in the transmission. Shrapnel embedded itself in the walls of buildings or on the exteriors of cars and the occasional bus.

Gina stood and helped Jake stand in one motion. She seemed unperturbed by the situation’s escalation of violence. Her face had transformed into the artificial mask that it was, no longer pretending to retain humanity. “So much for stopping the shit from hitting the fan. That manifesto is gonna be on the net for weeks.”

Jake twisted his helmet’s seal tight yet again. He did so wearily this time. Why was he at work after all. He could be waiting for the transfer decision. “Gina.”

She glanced back at him. She seemed primed. Shoulders thrown back. Leaning forward. “What?”

“Why? You…” He choked on his words. He felt betrayed. “Do you realize what you did? That wouldn’t have, maybe, I mean. We could’ve tried—”

“We could’ve tried what? To let him do that without us clearing the street? He wasn’t here to negotiate, Jake.”

He frowned. “You’re just assuming. We can’t just presume like that! You don’t have the right!”

“I see.” She rolled her eyes and turned away. “Buzz off, Jake. You’re leaving anyway.”

He clenched his fists. “Not just yet. For now? You’re still my partner. Don’t you see how outrageous this is? That man died!”

She spun on him. “He was going to kill as many people as he could! And you’re worried about him?” She scoffed. “Fuck you, man. Just go ahead and leave already!” Crouching for just a moment, she leapt clear over the roadway and sprang down the nearest alley.

Sighing. Jake rubbed his temple. “Fuck.”